Governor expected to sign gun bill, despite statewide opposition |

Governor expected to sign gun bill, despite statewide opposition

Derek Maiolo/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Multiple counties in Colorado have officially opposed the red flag gun bill.
File Photo

Colorado counties that have passed resolutions opposing the red flag bill
Alamosa County
Archuleta County
Baca County
Bent County
Cheyenne County
Conejos County
Crowley County
Custer County
Delta County
Dolores County
Douglas County
El Paso County
Elbert County
Fremont County
Huerfano County
Jackson County
Kiowa County
Kit Carson County
Lincoln County
Logan County
Mineral County
Moffat County
Montezuma County
Montrose County
Otero County (Otero has had a resolution like this since 2013)
Park County
Phillips County
Prowers County
Rio Blanco County
Rio Grande County
Sedgwick County
Teller County
Washington County
Weld County

The Democratic-controlled Colorado Legislature sent a “red flag” gun bill to the governor’s desk Monday, despite widespread protests from counties and law enforcement officials across the state, including Routt and Moffat counties.

Gov. Jared Polis has already pledged his support for the bill, which passed along party lines from the House of Representatives this week.

The bill allows family members, roommates or law enforcement to petition a court to take away someone’s guns for up to 14 days if a judge decides the person poses a risk to themselves or others.

Democratic lawmakers and supporters of the bill see it as a way to address the state’s growing suicide rate. Colorado lost 1,175 people to suicide in 2017, according to the Colorado Health Institute, which is the highest rate in state history. Guns were involved in more than half of those suicides.

Opponents, including sheriffs from Routt and Moffat counties, argue the bill encroaches on Constitutional rights, namely the Second Amendment and due process.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams went so far as to say he would rather go to jail than enforce the bill.

Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins has not been as extreme in his opposition to the bill, but he echoed the concerns of many who feel that an extreme risk protection order violates Constitutional rights.

If a judge feels that a person still poses a threat after the 14-day protection order, the bill allows that judge to extend the seizure to a year. In that case, burden of proof rests on the gun owner, who must show they do not pose a risk to themselves or others.

As Wiggins pointed out, that deviates from the usual rule of law.

“Our judicial system is designed so that the burden is placed upon the government to prove guilt, not that the accused is required to prove innocence,” he said in an email when lawmakers were still debating the bill.

More than half of the counties in Colorado do not support the bill. Thirty-four counties, including Weld and Moffat, have even passed resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties,” in an attempt to skirt enforcement of the legislation.

Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume has heard from several members of the public who support the resolution, and no one has confronted him opposing it.

Like many sheriffs in the state, he sees the red flag bill as an infringement of the Second Amendment. Supporting the bill, as he put it, would require him to violate the oath he took as an elected official to uphold the Constitution.

“It isn’t about guns,” Hume said. “It’s about how our country was founded.”

Craig City Council went on to declare the town a sanctuary city as well.

Sheriff Wiggins also saw a potential for law enforcement agencies to face unfunded mandates if the bill becomes law. Under the language of the legislation, agencies such as his own would bear the responsibility of taking and storing revoked firearms.

Commissioners in Weld County addressed that concern in their sanctuary resolution, saying they would not put money toward building a storage facility for weapons seized by law enforcement.

Thus far, the Board of Routt County Commissioners has not considered enacting a similar resolution.

Commissioner Doug Monger explained that, while he takes issue with the red flag bill, the board has not heard adequate opposition among county residents to justify government action.

“It wasn’t worth lying on the railroad tracks for,” he said.

Monger, a gun owner himself, has grown increasingly upset with what he sees as Democratic bulldozing at the state level, with lawmakers fast-tracking legislation against the will of many Coloradoans.

That was part of the reason he left the party last week and changed his political affiliation to Independent.

Even if Gov. Polis signs the bill into law, it is expected to face legal challenges. But Phil Weiser, the state’s attorney general, had harsh words for the sheriffs who said they wouldn’t enforce it.

“If a sheriff cannot follow the law, the sheriff cannot do his or her job,” he testified before a state Senate committee in March. “The right thing to do for a sheriff who says ‘I can’t follow the law’ is to resign.”

Commissioner Beth Melton said, without a strong outcry from her constituents, she sees no reason to take local government action against the bill.

“For us, it’s not an appropriate role to not enforce a state law,” she said. “That’s not our job.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User