Initial agreement reached in war between sheriffs and state lawmakers
by Rick Langenberg: (Related Front Page Story)
A temporary truce has been declared in the battle over gun control in Colorado between 55 county sheriffs and state lawmakers. And at least for now, some key law enforcement leaders, including Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger, are waving a victory flag. “We were very successful,” said Ensminger, in describing the opening battle and an agreement made, allowing Attorney General John Suthers to clarify some of the more controversial provisions pertaining to the new restrictions and to allow the sheriffs to pursue their overall lawsuit in the U.S. District Court.
The Teller sheriff briefly spoke before the county commissioners last Thursday. “We felt very encouraged,” added Ensminger, who believes the county sheriffs won round one.
In a compromise move, the county sheriffs agreed to drop their request for a preliminary injunction against two of the new gun control measures that went into effect in early July. In turn, some of the confusing language and more onerous restrictions regarding limits on gun ammunition magazine rounds will be clarified and eased up slightly, especially those dealing with grandfathering rights for people who currently own magazines capable of handling more than 15 bullets. High-capacity ammunition magazines are illegal under the new law, but those who possessed these magazines prior to when the law took effect are grandfathered in and can maintain their magazines.
The portions of the law under question last week were requirements that grandfathered magazines be in “continuous possession” of their owners and that magazines can be banned if they are “readily converted” to hold more than 15 bullets.
More clarity was provided regarding what “continuous possession” of these ammunition magazines really means for gun owners.
The new agreement would help clarify these issues, noted the sheriff. “The agreement is consistent with the reasonable, narrow reading of the statute that we have advocated and it now allows the court to expeditiously move to consideration of the Second Amendment implications of the statute,” said Suthers.
More importantly, Ensminger stressed that the new deal clears the path for a forthcoming trial, expected to occur in December, which will determine the constitutionality of the gun laws. Besides the ammunition magazine limits, the new Colorado gun laws have stringent rules for mandatory background checks. The Teller sheriff and other law enforcement officials have maintained that the gun restrictions, passed by state lawmakers and signed by Governor John Hickenlooper, represent an outright violation of the Second Amendment that governs gun ownership rights. And when it comes to gun ownership, Ensminger cited statistics indicating that on a per capita basis, Teller now ranks as the number one county in Colorado. And on a national basis, Teller is rated as the sixth top county, based on gun ownership on a per capita basis, according to information obtained by Ensminger. That adds further fuel to the argument that Teller County is gun country.
As a result, the Teller sheriff has emphasized the importance of this issue for Teller residents. Ensminger has maintained that the horrific, highly publicized mass shooting incidents occurring during the last 20 years pale in comparison to other more pressing issues, such as child abuse.
The sheriff last week stressed the importance of advocating gun safety and properly training citizens. He cited a number of programs the sheriff’s office is sponsoring. For example, this weekend, the sheriff’s office is doing a SWAT demonstration and public training exercise at the M-Lazy-C Ranch in Lake George (see Mountain Almanac for details) for two days. “This is an exciting time for us,” said Ensminger, in describing some of the events hosted by their agency. Last Saturday, the sheriff’s department had their second annual open house.
The county commissioners expressed a strong interest in the public participation aspect of this weekend’s SWAT demonstration and similar exercises that would provide folks with basic training in using firearms. “Someday, we will have a shooting range,” said the sheriff.