Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz passionately defends gun rights, but he no longer will be taking part in the lawsuit challenging controversial gun-restriction laws passed in 2013.
It wasn’t his choice.
“We’re still named, but we’re not a part of the actual suit,” Jantz said.
The federal judge ruling in the case determined in November that sheriffs could not sue in their professional capacity because that essentially would be an entity of the state suing itself.
“The most recent ruling was that the sheriffs can’t stand in their professional capacity, but they can still stand in their personal capacity,” said Steve Reams, bureau chief of the Public Safety Division of Weld County. The Weld County Sheriff’s Department led the way in challenging the 2013 gun legislation.
That ruling led to the 55 sheriffs originally signed onto the case as plaintiffs being reduced to 11 who are suing as private citizens.
“The court ruled that 11 sheriffs whom the court knew from the pleadings to be retiring or term limited in 2015” could remain on the case, said Dave Kopel, attorney for the sheriffs.
Jantz will not be one of the plaintiffs or witnesses.
Kopel disagreed with the judge’s new position and said it was a disappointment. Because of the judge’s decision, the suit no longer will be able to challenge the laws from a law enforcement perspective.
“What they can testify about won’t be how this messes up their sheriff’s office, but the personal guns they own for self-defense,” Kopel said.
But Jantz pressed that the law-enforcement factor was a predominant problem with the laws.
The laws in question — including new background check regulations and magazine limits — are not enforceable and put officers in a troubling position, Jantz said.
Kopel agreed. Under the background check law, firearms can’t be transferred to new custody without a 72-hour background check. But that could prove a problem when law enforcement holds a weapon or when officers exchange them with each other, Kopel said.
The magazine limit also could be a challenge for law enforcement, Jantz said. There wouldn’t be an easy way to determine whether someone was possessing illegally or legally obtained magazines.
“How do we enforce them rationally and fairly and equitably?” he said.
The lawsuit will move forward with testimony from six sheriffs who can relate their experience as private gun owners, Kopel said. The 11 sheriffs are plaintiffs on the case along with 21 others.
Moffat County Commis-sioner John Kinkaid expressed frustration with the laws.
“I think the government should be an advocate for increasing business in the state,” he said. “The gun legislation, in my opinion, did the opposite.”
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.