Sheriffs take gun debate on the road
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Four Colorado sheriffs Wednesday proudly trumpeted their participation in a lawsuit challenging two newly passed state gun-control laws.
“I’m not going to allow the government to come in and do things contrary to the (U.S.) Constitution,” Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario told a supportive audience of far more than 100 people at an event hosted by the nonprofit Independence Institute, which is representing 55 Colorado sheriffs in the suit.
The organization plans a similar event tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Delta County Center for Performing Arts and Education in Delta. Tickets are $5. Sheriffs Fred McKee of Delta County, Rick Dunlap of Montrose County and Justin Smith of Larimer County are scheduled to attend.
Smith and Vallario joined Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and Gilpin County Sheriff Bruce Hartman at the Glenwood Springs event. Cooke drew widespread attention early this year when he said he wouldn’t enforce gun controls proposed by President Obama. Smith reportedly at first took a similar position on universal background checks before later clarifying that he would simply legally challenge unconstitutional laws. The Denver Post criticized the two in an editorial as “going rogue.”
Then the state legislature passed measures outlawing firearms magazines of more than 15 rounds and imposing universal background checks before sales or transfers of firearms occur, prompting the sheriffs’ lawsuit.
“Let me tell you, now we have 55 rogue sheriffs, 55 sheriffs that are putting their name on the line, putting their reputations on the line and putting their political careers on the line,” Cooke said.
He said the sheriffs pursuing the suit cross political party and urban-rural lines.
“We are on the right side (of the law). We are standing up for you all,” he told the Glenwood Springs crowd.
Smith said the sheriffs’ opposition is about protecting not just Second Amendment rights but other constitutional rights as well.
“We know that the Second (Amendment) is important to protecting those other rights,” he said.
Said Vallario, “What we’re looking at is a slow, methodical, intentional taking away of our rights. It’s not just the Second Amendment but I believe it’s most of the Bill of Rights.”
David Kopel, the attorney handling the suit for the Independence Institute, said the sheriffs were faced with the dilemma of enforcing unconstitutional laws or abiding by their oath to uphold the Constitution. He said they’ve been vilified by some for simply standing up for the rule of law.
“In the face of these smear campaigns the sheriffs have not crumbled under pressure,” he said.