Colorado’s governor and attorney general both stated today that sheriffs should disregard county resolutions not to enforce gun-safety laws.
The statements came as Colorado lawmakers are poised to pass “red flag” legislation allowing police to take firearms from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others. Most Republicans oppose the measure, while Democrats support it.
Asked about the “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions passed by over a dozen Colorado counties, Gov. Jared Polis (R-CO), who supports red flag measures, told KHOW’s Ross Kaminsky:
POLIS: “Obviously, elected sheriffs don’t choose the laws, right? I mean, they enforce the laws. I would think that there are laws that every sheriff has qualms with and wouldn’t vote for if they were a legislator or wouldn’t sign if they were governor. So, I don’t think that it’s different than any other law that a sheriff opposes. But obviously, it’s the constitutional responsibility of a sheriff to enforce the law equally and without prejudice…
We have a very important third branch of government, Ross, and that’s the courts – the judicial branch. The judicial branch definitively determines what is constitutional and what is not. Sometimes they put a stay on a law, and it’s not enforced pending appeal. Sometimes the law is found unconstitutional. Sometimes laws are found constitutional. I mean, so, we have a process to do that. I have faith in our democratic republic. I have faith in that process. “
For his part, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also stated today that such resolutions “cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law,” such as an order a judge might issued to confiscate a gun under the red flag law.
“Our nation and state depends on the rule of law. All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law,” stated Weiser, a Democrat elected in November, in a news release. “I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”
The bill’s opponents disagree, saying the red flag measures violate multiple articles of the U.S. Constitution.
Weiser pointed out that that multiple states passed red flag laws, and he believes they save lives and pass “constitutional muster.”
If Polis thought the red flag legislation wasn’t constitutional, then he would “absolutely” be less inclined to sign it, the governor told Kaminsky, who’s a Libertarian and therefore opposed to most gun control measures.
But the governor pointed out there haven’t been constitutional issues in other states that have passed the red flag law.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, speaking on KNUS this morning, said he’s received threats for his support of the red-flag bill, and he’s not worried about being recalled from office for his stance.
El Paso Country Sheriff Bill Elder, who came out against the 2nd Amendment sanctuaries but opposes the red flag bill, got threats as well, illustrating the intense feelings gun legislation brings out.
Spurlock adamantly believes that if a red-flag bill had been on the books, Douglas County Deputy Zach Parrish, who was killed in 2017 by a mentally ill shooter, would be alive today.
“We could have had [the killer] if [a Red Flag law] was in existence,” Spurlock told KNUS’ Peter Boyles. “We could gotten the ERPO [order to take his guns], served it on him when he was outside of the house because we had contact with him all of the time, and then gone to the house with him – in a secure environment, and taken his guns away, and all would have been well. And then he would have gotten treatment. […] Talking to his mother who said there has to be some other way, because she was forced to give the guns back to him….”
“Our guys are going to do their job. And that night – and every other night that we encounter someone who has a severe mental health issue and has a gun, I’ve got to tell you, my guys and cops across the country and the cops in all those other counties, they do their very best to de-escalate as much as they possibly can, because we’re not interested in getting shot or in shooting someone else. And you know, for me, I’m frustrated with some people. I’m frustrated with some folks that – behind the scenes – are saying, “Well, you know, we have to worry! He’s just going to come and take all the guns,” that we’re going to take Pete’s guns away. Well, there’s a system in place. I’ve got to stand in front of a judge and say, “Your honor, these are the facts that I have, and this is the information I have.” And there is dialogue between–.
Boyles: But I’m not there [defend myself against the claim.]
“Yeah, you’re not there because ex parte rules are all over the place in the United States and in the state of Colorado because those are there for safety purposes, that are immediate purposes.