At a public meeting on March 28, much of which was concerned with the recent State legislation regarding gun safety, Gilpin County Sheriff Bruce Hartman indicated that 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 at the meeting that there are “major problematic issues” with the new legislation, with the banning of high-capacity magazines being “the prime example.”
He did say at the time 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. He was insistent that in Gilpin County “we will enforce [them] like any other law.”
Among his concerns, he said, was the 72-hour limit for the surrender of firearms for those convicted of domestic violence or having a protection order issued against them. He stated that the organization of Colorado sheriffs was 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.
In his letter of May 23, posted on the Gilpin County website, Hartman reinforced that position, claiming that, although he strongly disagrees with the gun bills, “no one except a court has the authority to change or modify these laws…. Everyone has an opinion on these bills, including myself, but…no opinion, except that of a court, has any binding legal authority.”
In Hartman’s letter, no comment was made about the Sheriffs’—and his own—concern about the constitutionality of the new laws, and yet, the lawsuit was filed by the Independence Institute, “the conservative think tank,” according to KOAA in Colorado Springs, on behalf of 54 sheriffs and a number of “retired law enforcement officers, disabled individuals, civil rights and disability rights organizations, licensed firearms dealers, associations of law-abiding gun owners, hunting outfitters, and the firearms industry, and a manufacturer of firearm accessories.” It is all—and only—about “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.”
While Hartman said in his letter that he “and many other law enforcement officials welcome serious, honest, non-emotional, non-agenda driven discussion on these laws,” he was very much present at a “road show” in Glenwood Springs, according to the Post Independent, which even posted a picture of him with Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
At this “road show,” at which those present had paid $5 admission, the “non-emotional” and “rational” discussion included statements like “Gun owners … for the first time are beginning to push back,” from Independence Institute President John Caldara; and “It simply became clear … they simply went too far into the rights of citizens,” from Justin Smith, Larimer County Sheriff.
All Americans are losing their rights
“What we’re looking at here is a slow, methodical, intentional taking away of our rights,” said Vallario, who also said that “gun-control backers are the same politicians who are undermining other constitutional rights.”
The two laws attacked in the lawsuit are those requiring universal background checks and banning magazines holding more than 15 bullets. David Kopel, Independence Institute research director and lawyer for the sheriffs in the lawsuit, said that “plaintiffs in the suit are not saying there cannot be gun-control laws, just that these two laws “go over the line.”
His concern regarding the background check law, according to the PI’s article, would make illegal “lending a hunting rifle to a friend, for instance, for the duration of a typical hunt,” and the 15-round limit falls into the category of “firearms typical of those owned by law-abiding citizens,” which had been previously declared constitutional. This, even though the governor had already offered the day before to limit enforcement of the 15-round ban until a judge rules on its constitutionality.
The Glenwood Springs road show gave away door prizes—soon to be illegal 30-round AR-15 magazines manufactured by Magpul Industries, a complainant in the lawsuit that has decided to leave Colorado because of the new laws. In Colorado Springs, Sheriff Terry Maketa requested that Public Information Officer Dave Rose send an email to all county employees alerting them to a $5 per person fundraiser in support of the lawsuit—an action that has raised many ethical questions.
The judge in the lawsuit is not expected to make a decision until late this year or sometime next year; the new laws go into effect on July 1.