Gun owner Bob Reese fires his Glock .45-caliber pistol at the Routt County Rifle Club on Tuesday afternoon. Routt and Moffat county sheriffs said they will not enforce gun-control measures expected to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper today.

Photo by John F. Russell

Gun owner Bob Reese fires his Glock .45-caliber pistol at the Routt County Rifle Club on Tuesday afternoon. Routt and Moffat county sheriffs said they will not enforce gun-control measures expected to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper today.

Routt and Moffat county sheriffs say they won't, and can't, enforce new Colorado gun laws

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Reader poll

Do you agree with Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins that new gun legislation is unenforceable?

  • Yes 69%
  • No 30%
  • I don't know enough about the new laws. 1%

411 total votes.

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Gun owner Bob Reese fires his AR-15 rifle, which uses a 30-round clip, at the Routt County Rifle Club on Tuesday afternoon. New legislation in Colorado expected to be signed into law Wednesday would limit new gun magazines to a maximum of 15 rounds.

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Garrett Wiggins

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Tim Jantz

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Randy Baumgardner

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Diane Mitsch Bush

— Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said they will join Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and not enforce gun-control measures expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday.

Wiggins and Jantz maintain the legislation passed by Colorado's House and Senate won't keep guns out of the hands of criminals and instead will punish law-abiding citizens. Both sheriffs said Tuesday that gun control has been the No. 1 concern of their constituents in recent months, and that every email, phone call and comment they have heard is from residents who oppose gun control legislation.

“I can’t even walk out of the gym in the morning without people talking to me about it,” Wiggins said.

Hickenlooper is expected to sign at least two new guns laws Wednesday. One requires universal background checks, include private-sale purchases. The other limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, though existing high-capacity magazines would be grandfathered in. A third bill enacting fees for background checks also has been sent to Hickenlooper to sign into law.

Wiggins has taken an active role in his opposition to the measures, including trips to Denver to join other Colorado sheriffs in testifying against gun control legislation at the state Capitol.

“I’ve been there for the majority of the opportunities to testify,” Wiggins said. “Sheriffs are looked upon by constituents to step up and support Second Amendment rights.”

Wiggins said he used his county-owned vehicle to drive to Denver and that county taxpayers paid for one night’s stay in a hotel.

At his office Tuesday, Wiggins took out the clip from his gun to illustrate why he said the new law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds would be impossible for his deputies to enforce. Wiggins said older magazines would be grandfathered in, and magazines do not contain dates for when they were made.

“There is absolutely no way for us to determine when you purchased that magazine,” Wiggins said.

Colorado Democrats who support the gun-control measures have said they do not infringe upon the Second Amendment right to bear arms but rather take steps to keep Coloradans safer. Both sides claim the majority of residents are on their side.

Jantz said there is nothing that can compel him and other sheriffs in Colorado to enforce laws they consider unenforceable. He said it is not what they agreed to when they took their oath of office.

“It doesn’t say I need to enforce every statute,” Jantz said.

That also is the belief of District 8 state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey.

"Each county sheriff has to make a decision about how to prioritize and enforce the laws in the county they were elected to serve," Baumgardner said in an email Tuesday. "I voted against the Democrat gun control package because I believe the proposals are unconstitutional and make law-abiding persons criminals and do nothing to improve public safety."

The Democratic legislator who sponsored the universal backgrounds check bill told The Denver Post this week that sheriffs who are unwilling or unable to fulfill the duties of their position should step down.

"They are putting politics above their job," said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

However, legal experts told the Post it's the prerogative of law enforcement officers to prioritize how laws are enforced. Because most county sheriffs in Colorado are elected, the voters will determine their fates.

House District 26 Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday. On her website, Mitsch Bush explained why she supported the bill limiting high-capacity magazines.

“Many of the mass shooters in the past few years have used 30-round, 52-round, and 100-round magazines. In at least two instances, bystanders were able to tackle or shoot the criminal, mass shooter when he was changing magazines. That one to two second period saved lives.”

At the national level, The Associated Press reported that an assault weapons ban would not be part of gun-control legislation that Democrats will bring to the U.S. Senate next month.

“In a tactical decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., concluded that including the prohibition in the gun bill would jeopardize the chances for passage of any firearms legislation at all, taking away votes that would be needed to overcome Republican attempts to block the Senate from even taking up the issue,” the AP reported.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Jason Phillips 1 year, 7 months ago

Then they need to be voted out of office ASAP. Last I checked they don't get to make the rules.

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jamcolo 1 year, 7 months ago

Hey , Sheriff's can I pick and chose what laws I want to follow too?

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a_citizen_not_a_subject 1 year, 7 months ago

Sheriffs, thank you! I respect you for standing up and speaking out for what's right and representing the backbone of the country. You're doing great work, keep up the good fight.

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btyjo77 1 year, 7 months ago

Jantz will continue to have my vote!!! Thanks for standing up for what is right.

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firstofthefallen 1 year, 7 months ago

It is hard for me to understand why this is such an issue. Law enforcement practices discretion every day. When an offender gets pulled over for some sort of traffic violation it is often the officers discretion that determines whether the person is ticketed or given a warning. Roadside evaluations are the officers discretion as well. I myself have been given roadside tests after have a couple beers and the officer let me go because he determined I was not impaired although he knew I had been drinking. The same could be said for drug related offences as well. If a person were to have some small personal amount of an illegal substance, many times an officer may choose to warn the offender or confiscate the substance and send the person on their way.
I agree that our law enforcement officials should make the proper decisions when it comes to the new sales that would violate this law but as far as everyday citizens acting in a reasonable manner then I believe this is the right choice for our elected officials to make.

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Jason Phillips 1 year, 7 months ago

@firstofthefallen - Part of the reason its such an issue is that the Sheriffs have collectively decided to make this a PR political effort. If they were merely practicing discretion that would be one thing - but they are taking a political stance and grandstanding. It's offensive and outside the scope of their roles. They ought to be impeached.

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btyjo77 1 year, 7 months ago

Seriously Buff.... Impeached? Save that for the president

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Jason Phillips 1 year, 7 months ago

The difference is that the president is operating within the parameters of his office, and the Sheriffs are not. Even if we were talking about a different issue than gun control entirely, it's the principle of picking and choosing which laws to enforce that I have a problem with. That's not how our society was built, and that's certainly not what they were elected to do.

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jeff corriveau 1 year, 7 months ago

buff bronc fan you must have landed on your head when you got bucked off! "operating within the parameters ofhis office"? Do you think ordering ICE NOT to enforce immigration laws AND allowing ATF to walk illegal guns across the border is "within the parameters of his office"????? That's just two examples of the extreme indifference Obama has shown for the rule of law and the Constitution. Care to carry this out any further or do you just want to surrender now?

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GreyStone 1 year, 7 months ago

These politicians have no knowledge of what firearms are, the functionality of specific firearms or the accessories related to any firearm. How can they be qualified to create legislation regulating firearms? They are, in fact, only legislators groping around in the dark.

My five year old son knows more about firearms than these politicians.

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jamcolo 1 year, 7 months ago

Greystone remember this the next time anti female bills or anti science bill come through. Politicians know science even less then guns.

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Militaryfam09 1 year, 6 months ago

From what I have learned from my military time is that the sheriffs are there to enforce the constitution. Banding guns will take away your right to bare arms handed down to us by our founding fathers. I support the sheriffs in their decision.

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