Community focuses on guns, gaming revenue
• Lynn Hirshman
• Gilpin County
More than 50 people showed up for “coffee and conversation” with the Gilpin County Commissioners on Thursday evening, March 28, at the Gilpin County Community Center. Most, though certainly not all, came to discuss the Legislature’s recent gun safety bills with Senator Jeanne Nicholson (D-16) and Sheriff Bruce Hartman.
One audience member asked Sen. Nicholson how she had voted on the gun bills. When she replied that she had voted for all five of the bills — the three that had already been signed and the two that were still in the works — about half the audience applauded, while about half did not.
Nicholson added, in response to a question whether the Legislature was dealing with the issue of mental health in background checks, that mental health services were seriously underfunded in Colorado. She went on to point out that she and Senator Irene Aguilar (D-32) were about to launch a bill calling for additional funding for crisis treatment centers, noting that there was funding “in about 10 different places” in the Long Bill (the State budget bill) for mental health services.
Sheriff Hartman was eloquent on his concern regarding some aspects of the gun legislation. He had been among those Colorado sheriffs who testified at the legislative hearings in opposition to some of the proposed new laws. He pointed out that there are “major problematic issues,” with the banning of high-capacity magazines being “the prime example.”
He did say that he thought some of the sheriffs were “feeding the [anti-gun-law] frenzy” in their behavior. “Shame on them,” he said, regarding those who were claiming that the laws were unconstitutional and refusing to enforce them. In Gilpin County “we will enforce [them] like any other law,” he said. He was particularly concerned not only with the issue of high-capacity magazines, but also with the 72-hour limit for the surrender of firearms for those convicted of domestic violence or having a protection order issued against them.
In response to a question from the press, he stated that the organization of Colorado sheriffs is indeed contemplating a lawsuit regarding the laws’ constitutionality — but only because that was the only way to get clarification as to which aspects of these laws are enforceable. He pointed out that Attorney General John Suthers would have to defend the laws if that suit is brought forward. A comment was made to the effect that Suthers, a Republican, may not defend those laws vigorously, eliciting from Hartman a shrug of possible resignation.
Hartman has not decided if he will sign on to such a lawsuit, and when asked, said that there would be no County money involved.
The other main issue discussed at the meeting was the newly signed law changing the distribution of the State share of gaming revenues. Sponsored by Sen. Nicholson among others, the bill in effect recognizes that Gilpin County has been receiving less than its share, based on the amount of gaming revenue for each of the two gaming counties.
Nicholson also discussed the State’s request to have redundant naval air resources donated to Colorado for the purpose of fighting wildfires. She said she had requested U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to follow up that request. Hartman added that the State’s sheriffs would “jump on board.”
Commissioner Gail Watson spoke of her efforts to deal with the serious transportation issue in Gilpin County. She has been talking with the mayors of Nederland and Ward, as well as with the Colorado Department of Transportation, in an effort to bring the shuttle back in an affordable way. She is also working on improving broadband service for the County.