Garfield commission backs sheriffs’ gun-law challenge

Garfield County commissioners have decided to ride shotgun in support of Colorado sheriffs who are legally challenging new gun restrictions in the state, joining a growing list of counties to do so.

Acting at the behest of Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario, the commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution opposing “vague and unenforceable” gun laws adopted by the state legislature.

“We own pistols, we own shotguns, we own rifles, and we’re proud that we do,” Commissioner Mike Samson said, referring to himself and fellow commissioners John Martin and Tom Jankovsky.

Eight Colorado counties have passed measures in support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, including Mesa, Montrose, Moffat, Delta and Montezuma counties in western Colorado, according to That’s a website devoted to the lawsuit by 55 Colorado sheriffs and others to take on House bills 1224 and 1229, which respectively limit gun magazines to 15 rounds and impose universal background checks on gun sales and transfers.

State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, told Garfield commissioners that such resolutions matter as some lawmakers come back next year and try to modify the laws that were passed. State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, told the commissioners he will be introducing a bill seeking to repeal the gun magazine limits, which he considers an infringement on the Second Amendment.

Said Rankin, “We’re fighting an issue here where it’s sort of a national agenda to implement these gun control laws without proof that it will do any good.”

John Bernard, a gunsmith in Rifle, told the commissioners, “The people that are passing this stuff are pushing and pushing and pushing, and I think the best way to counter is to push back, and push back hard.”

Samson shared Bernard’s sentiments that the measures violate people’s rights. “They do go too far and we need to push back,” he said.

Vallario acknowledged that guidance provided by state Attorney General John Suthers has helped clarify some of the confusion surrounding the laws, but he said guidance is only that, and future attorneys general could alter it.

He told commissioners that people have told him it’s not up to him to determine what is constitutional.

“They are 100 percent right. That’s what our courts are for and that’s why we initiated the lawsuit,” he said.

Garfield Commissioner John Martin noted that no taxpayer funds are being used on behalf of the lawsuit. However, the county’s motion does authorize County Attorney Frank Hutfless to take actions including filing briefs in the case where appropriate to seek to avoid unfunded mandates created by the new laws.


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