Sheriffs Declare War Against Gun Control

John Cooke
Photo Credit: Denver Post

by Rick Langenberg:





Line drawn in the sand between state and local law officers

Legal fireworks have ignited regarding gun control in Colorado, pitting county sheriffs against Democratic lawmakers and the governor.

A lawsuit was filed late last week by 54 sheriffs, including Terry Maketa and Mike Ensminger, the head law officers for El Paso and Teller counties, targeting two of the five gun control laws passed by the state legislature. These deal with laws outlawing high-capacity magazines and conducting mandatory background checks on all gun sales, including those that occur between private individuals.

The lawsuit, filed in the District Court in Denver, maintains that these laws are unconstitutional. “Today represents a line in the sand,” said Maketa regarding the legal action in a press conference. “The filing of this lawsuit is our only option…We did not ask for this, but we will not stand by silently while good citizens are deprived of their rights and criminalized.” The Colorado sheriffs hope that they can obtain a temporary injunction against these laws, scheduled to go into effect on July 1. The sheriff action is being funded by the Denver-based Independence Institute, a conservative think tank.

The lawsuit isn’t surprising. During an earlier town hall meeting in March, Ensminger, who has been quite vocal in his opposition to four of five of the new gun control laws, hinted of pending legal action by a group of sheriffs. He has referred to the gun laws as completely unenforceable and nothing more than “feel good laws that make no sense whatsoever.” Ensminger , who has appeared in national interviews on the subject, has stressed that his office can’t enforce laws that violate individual’s constitutional rights. “I will not enforce any law, if it violates somebody else’s constitutional rights. I stand for your rights,” said the sheriff during an earlier meeting at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.

Both he and Maketa appeared in another town hall meeting recently at the Ute Pass Elementary School. They are both key leaders of the County Sheriffs of Colorado association, which took an active role in protesting the gun legislation. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers will be defending the state, and ironically, will go head to head with the Colorado sheriffs in the gun control battle. Suthers, a former district attorney for Teller and El Paso counties, has recorded a staunch no-nonsense record for advocating law and order and usually sides with law officers in most matters. He has asked for more legal guidance in dealing with this legal feud. “The objective of the Attorney General’s Office will be to get court rulings on the legalities of various aspects of the legislation as expeditiously as possible,” said Suthers, in a statement