Sheriff: Gun laws not a priority
Won’t go out of his way to bust violators
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey won’t send deputies out of their way to find oversized ammunition magazines or investigate firearms transfers, but he said he will use new state gun-control laws if confronted with violations.
Hilkey outlined his position on universal background checks and the limit on the size of magazines that can be sold in the state in a letter posted to the Sheriff’s Department’s website.
His department will have to negotiate between extremes, Hilkey said in an interview Wednesday.
“Nobody should be worried about being a legal citizen today and then tomorrow being under investigation,” Hilkey said. “But I can’t look the other way if someone goes out and sets up a booth at the county fair and starts selling 30-round magazines.”
New laws that go into effect July 1 will require universal background check on gun sales and transfers and limit to 15 rounds the size of magazines that can be sold in the state.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation last week establishing the new laws, which were spurred by mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.
Hilkey, a Republican who will complete his third term in office in 2014, echoed opponents of the new laws, which passed the Democrat-dominated Legislature, writing that the measures “are not useful in keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals nor will they prevent the kind of mass murder events that have emotionally driven us to this result.”
While he disagrees with them, Hilkey said he will enforce the new laws as he deems appropriate.
“To be clear,” he wrote, “I have no interest in giving any priority to enforcement of these measures and in fact because of the widely discussed difficulties in enforcing these laws, I find it to be a poor use of public resources based on other much more important priorities.
“Simply put, we will not be proactively looking into gun transfers or magazine-possession issues and it will be our stance that transfers and possession of high-capacity magazines are proper and legal unless there is clear and convincing evidence otherwise or someone is openly, blatantly defying state law.”
Hilkey wrote out his position in response to several requests by phone, email and other avenues, he said.
There was “a lot of fear” that he would try to track magazines or monitor what backgrounds are being checked, Hilkey said.
“We don’t have the staff, the time or the resources to do that,” he said.
Hickenlooper said at the time that he expected law enforcement officials around the state to enforce the new laws.
Several sheriffs, notably John Cooke in Weld County and Terry Maketa in El Paso County, have said the new laws are unenforceable.
In his letter, Hilkey said he would use the laws to intervene in an act of violence or remove a weapon from the hands of a violent criminal. “After all, ‘public safety’ is a statutory requirement of the office of sheriff,” he wrote.