by Rick Langenberg:
The first volley of shots have exploded in the Colorado gun battle, with an all-out war igniting between rural areas like Teller County and urban Democratic hubs
Buoyed by majority control in the state House and Senate and the governor’s office and much angst over a series of deadly shooting tragedies, Colorado Democratic leaders succeeded late last week in passing several staunch gun control measures following a marathon debate. The impacts of this legislative action are still under debate.
Foes of these rules, including most local leaders and law enforcement authorities, are questioning if the Second Amendment (which protects the right to possess guns and bear arms) is now under attack. Already, at least one local community, Cripple Creek, has indicated it won’t comply with certain aspects of the new proposed legislation.
And Colorado has now moved into the national epicenter in the debate over gun control. Vice-President Joe Biden took a break from a ski trip in Colorado to personally sway the votes of several key Democratic House lawmakers last Friday.
Initially, this legislative development may actually produce a boom for weapon and ammunition purchases at local gun shops, prior to the implementation of these rules this summer. But in the long-term, several key gun ammunition manufacturers and suppliers say they plan to stop doing business in Colorado.
Nevertheless, the door is definitely open for the most significant gun control measures in Colorado in recent years. The state House advanced several key proposals, including measures calling for limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring gun customers to pay the costs of their criminal background checks, imposing universal background checks for gun sales or transfers and banning concealed-weapon owners from packing heat at college campus buildings. With a Democratic majority in the state House and based on the comments of Governor John Hickenlooper, the prospects are good for possibly all of these rules to become law by this summer.
Hickenlooper, though, still hasn’t endorsed the concealed weapon ban, which is the one measure that didn’t’ get formally voted on by House lawmakers last week. However, based on the results of a previous legislative hearing, that measure is expected to get approved this week.
These measures have gotten a cold response by local leaders, who view these rules as assaulting the Second Amendment gun ownership rights. Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger contends that if these rules are implemented, then lawmakers will have to change the Second Amendment. He concedes that the recent tragic shootings are unfortunate, horrific incidents, but questions if these new proposed laws will really fix the problem. For example, he cites a very small percentage of fatal shootings from semi-automatic weapons. Moreover, Ensminger mentions the national crisis over child abuse as a more pressing issue for Teller County and Colorado, with statistics now indicating that five children are dying a day across the nation at the hands of people in trust. “How come we don’t hear anything about that?” questioned the sheriff, in a recent interview, in which he addressed a variety of law enforcement concerns.
The County Sheriffs of Colorado association, a bipartisan group, had proposed tabling any gun control legislation for at least a year. That action was firmly supported by the current commissioners and the Teller County Republican Party.
No one disputes the fact that Teller County is gun country. But other than the Cripple Creek City Council and the El Paso County Commissioners, no local entities have formally challenged gun control rules by taking official stands (see related story). However, at the same time, many legal experts say these types of pro-Second Amendment resolutions amount to mostly symbolic gestures.
In its recent resolution, the city of Cripple Creek urged lawmakers not to take any drastic action in the gun control arena. “The city council further urges Colorado’s United States Senators and Congressional delegation to take stock of their oaths of office and to reject and vote against the efforts of a strident minority to use tragedy as an excuse to infringe on fundamental constitutional rights.” It also prohibits city employees from enforcing or observing “any statutes, edicts, executive orders, regulations or other enactments which conflict with the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution or pertinent decisions of the United States Supreme Court regarding the Second Amendment.”
These statements could definitely clash with the recent bout of gun control proposals, endorsed by state lawmakers. The main impetus behind these proposals, according to Democratic leaders, hinges on the tragic shootings at a movie theater in Aurora and the fatal slaughter of more than 20 kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. “Limiting the number of bullets will save lives,” blasted Representative Lois Court of Denver, according to a report in the Denver Post. “It’s intuitive…more bullets, more weapons, more killing. Less bullets, less weapons, less killing.”