by Rick Langenberg:
A federal lawsuit filed against two controversial gun control laws, passed by the Colorado General Assembly and expected to become official in early July, continues to gain ammunition, political support and money.
The suit has been endorsed by 55 county sheriffs, including Mike Ensminger and Terry Maketa, who represent Teller and El Paso counties, and have been quite vocal in opposition to the gun control laws. The sheriffs and proponents of the action say the specific laws, dealing with mandatory background checks on all gun sales and prohibitions against high-capacity magazines, are unconstitutional and extremely vague. In fact, many sheriffs, including Ensminger, maintain that four of five of the new gun control laws are impossible to enforce.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Denver in mid-May only targets two of the measures, HB 1224 (high capacity-magazine prohibitions) and HB 1229 (mandatory background checks).
For several months, key law enforcement leaders have argued that the newly-passed gun control measures, dubbed as some of the toughest among new restrictions passed in the country, are outright violations of the Second Amendment constitution rights, which govern gun ownership, and even the 14th Amendment dealing with due process rights. Proponents of the laws, including Governor John Hickenlooper, refer to the laws as common sense measures, aimed at preventing further gun massacres such as the shootings in a movie theater in Aurora and in Connecticut. He strongly objects to the premise that these new laws interfere with anyone’s constitutional rights, and even classifies himself as a pro-gun buff.
But from the get-go, the new gun control laws and related proposals have pitted Denver against more rural areas like Teller County. “I will not enforce any law, if it violates somebody else’s constitutional rights. I stand for your rights,” said Ensminger in an earlier town hall meeting in Cripple Creek. He has echoed this same theme in a volley of interviews with the local and national media.
Last week, the legal and political campaign against the new laws took a step forward with the raising of nearly $20,000 during an emotional rally in Colorado Springs. The event, organized by the Denver-based Independent Institute, the group financing the lawsuit, drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 people. Most speakers heavily criticized the gun control effort and an attorney for the group outlined their strategy. Initially, the group hopes to obtain a temporary injunction against these laws. The rally even featured a rare time in which anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce joined forces with some of his former foes in the El Paso County government.
More importantly, the effort generated much cash through the auctioning of official resolutions, signed by the El Paso County Commissioners and a few Colorado sheriffs. These classify the two targeted gun control laws as unconstitutional. Last Tuesday, the commissioners also agreed to file a brief in support of the lawsuit.
It’s still not clear if any action will occur by leaders in Teller County. The Teller County Commissioners will meet on June 13. Both the Teller commissioners and the Cripple Creek City Council have already passed laws, heavily supporting the Second Amendment, indicating that new measures violating these rights, such as federal and state gun restrictions, won’t be enforced. But both measures were highly symbolic.
In late June, Ensminger plans to hold more town hall meetings throughout the county. The forthcoming forums could generate some lively discussion, as they will occur close to the deadline for enforcing the new gun control measures. For more information about the dates and times of the new sheriff forums and for details of the county’s lawsuit, visit the Teller County government website at www.co.teller.co.us/.
And in a related measure, efforts are continuing to recall state Senate President John Morse, one of their more vocal advocates of the new gun control laws, whose district is located in El Paso County. The recall has been supported by the National Rifle Association. However, a group defending Morse, “A Whole Lot of People for John Morse,” isn’t throwing in the towel. They are accusing Maketa of breaking the law by sending an e-mail to all El Paso County employees, notifying them of the fundraising event.
In addition, supporters of the new gun control have exhibited no signs of backing down. Hickenlooper was recently profiled in a major article in the New Yorker magazine, outlining how he changed his position on the issue from a reluctant supporter to a staunch believer that the new rules will protect more citizens and even law officers. With the national spotlight Colorado garnered in the national gun control debate, some political insiders are even dubbing Hickenlooper as a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 or even a vice-president pick, especially if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.
With the gun furor, it’s a sure bet Hickenlooper will face quite a challenge, if he decides to run for governor again in 2014.