Holding pattern: Moffat County sheriff, Craig police chief willing to fight state’s red flag law
Moffat County and Craig’s top policemen say they will be watching and waiting to see whether the political and judicial winds blow away the state’s new red flag gun bill.
The bill was signed by Gov. Jared Polis last week on April 12, but won’t go into effect until Jan. 1.
The Craig City Council on March 11 declared Craig a “sanctuary city” for the purposes of protecting Second Amendment rights.
The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners passed a similar resolution March 5, but the city’s resolution might have made Craig the first city in the state to pass such a measure.
According to a copy of the city’s resolution, obtained by the Craig Press, the city deems Colorado’s red flag law to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second and Fourth Amendments and says the city will exercise its local legislative authority to become a sanctuary city.
The resolution directs the Moffat County sheriff to “desist the enforcement of the red flag law within Moffat County, including the city of Craig” and directs Craig’s police chief to work with county officials to “maintain the Second Amendment sanctuary county status for the benefit of all citizens within the city of Craig.”
The resolution was in response to HB 19-1177, which would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court to take away a resident’s firearms for up to 14 days if that person is determined by a judge to be a threat to themselves or others.
A judge could also issue a search warrant and seize firearms under HB 19-1177 without notifying the accused party during the process.
The bill’s sponsors say the legislation would help reduce incidents of suicide and other gun violence in Colorado.
But because the law doesn’t go into effect until January 2020, Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume and Craig Police Chief Jerry Delong said they are essentially in a holding pattern.
“There’s really nothing for me as a sheriff to do as far as enforcement or non-enforcement right now,” Hume said.
Hume and Delong both said the law lacks due process and language designed to address mental health concerns.
“That’s part of the thing that’s flawed,” Hume said. “You don’t have an opportunity to have a voice until later.”
Delong has been vocal before Craig’s City Council about the law’s lack of mental health language.
“They didn’t involve the mental health professionals,” Delong said.
Both men expect the law’s constitutionality to be challenged in court.
“I would think that there might be a challenge or two for constitutionality,” Delong said. “They might also add amendments or rework the law itself.”
There’s also the possibility of joining whatever legal challenges may come.
“I haven’t been asked and I’d have to evaluate the nature of any such request,” Hume said when asked whether he would join a potential lawsuit against the red flag bill.
Delong seemed more amenable to the idea of joining a potential lawsuit against the bill — especially if the suit or legal challenge were brought by a prominent organization such as the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Sure,” he said Thursday.
According to media reports, about half of the counties in Colorado have declared themselves sanctuary counties for the Second Amendment. Hume said he knows his constituency in Moffat County would never support the red flag bill and he plans to honor their wishes, but Hume wonders why no one in Denver seems to be listening to the rest of the state.
“It does not surprise me in Moffat County. If it were anything different, that would surprise me…” Hume said. “But if you look at the sentiment from across the state in other areas and the number of counties that have voiced their opposition through resolutions or their sheriffs coming out to oppose it, it’s huge… Is anyone listening?”
Until there’s some movement to challenge the law in court, Delong said an accurate timeline for when the law may or may not be implemented will be hard to come by.
“Sometimes the legal system can move very quickly and sometimes it’s the slowest thing,” Delong said.