Commissioners oppose new gun storage law; Seek to end Polis emergency powers
Bob Volpe and Rick Langenberg
At a special meeting held last week in Woodland Park, the Teller County commissioners adopted two resolutions that deal with several touchy and often controversial subjects: gun rights and state- mandated COVID emergency powers.
Both resolutions are aimed at declaring the county’s right to serve county residents without interference from the state government and Colorado Governor Jared Polis, when those entities impose restrictions the county deems inappropriate. The commissioners contend they have received mostly positive reaction to their sudden moves.
The first resolution is in opposition to HB 21-1106, The Safe and Secure Firearms Storage Act. The bill, recently introduced by several representatives in mostly urban areas, requires that firearms be responsibly and securely stored when they are not in use to prevent access by unsupervised juveniles and other unauthorized users. Unlawful storage of a firearm is a class 2 misdemeanor.
The resolution lists a number of instances that the commissioners consider the authority of the county and constitutional rights under fire. Those instances include: The county has the authority to adopt and enforce ordinances and resolutions regarding health, safety, and welfare; the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment; and the right of citizens to defend themselves and their property.
This resolution declares the state does not have the constitutional authority to impose the HB 21-1106 under the Bill of Rights and the Colorado Constitution and that citizens have a right to defend themselves and their property in any manner they seem fit.
“This is absolutely ridiculous and completely unconstitutional,” said Commissioner Erik Stone, in an interview last week. The commissioner has previously testified in opposition against this legislation.
He said the proposed bill could jeopardize the safety of those who live in rural areas, where gun-trained youth often have to defend their property from wild animals. According to Stone, the commissioners believe their opposition to this legislation has a good chance of receiving notice, especially when it is debated in the state Senate.
Time to let local government handle COVID restrictions
The second resolution calls for a return to normal governance in regard to the governor’s continued use of executive orders on counties involving the coronavirus. The resolution states that the governor’s powers to declare a state of health emergency only lasts for “30-days without extension or amendment by the state legislature.” Governor Polis has extended the executive order 12 times through 2020-21 without action by the state legislature.
“We are no longer in an emergency (situation),” explained Stone. More specifically, he said that the state legislature is fully back in session and the county government is completely functional. The commissioner admitted that wasn’t the case a year ago, when the pandemic first struck.
Moreover, he noted that the county has made major strides in vaccinating their citizens; their COVID case load has dropped significantly; and hospital services are not strained.
The resolution cites harm to businesses, restrictions on personal liberties, impacts on citizens’ mental health, and a nearly 100 percent increase in the suicide rate in the county during 2020. It further states, “Actions necessary to react to the COVID-19 can and should be addressed by the Colorado State Legislature and local health authorities not through emergency powers declared by the governor.”
The resolution declares the county commissioners support restoring the “Colorado state legislature to a fully and appropriately functioning state government, and allow local county health authorities to manage the vaccination and economic recovery programs with state government guidance not mandates.”
In conclusion, the resolution states, “The county commissioners believe the citizens of Teller County are capable of exercising personal responsibly and making meaningful and safe decisions with respect to their personal health circumstances, jobs, businesses, and their personal lives, and will do so far better than the government.”
County Commission Vice-Chairman Dan Williams endorsed these resolutions, noting that the county can deal with these issues better than the state. “We’re not poking the governor in the eye, we’re just saying we got this,” said Williams.
Williams also said, Douglas County signed similar resolutions last week and the El Paso County commissioners are expected to do the same.
Woodland Park recently passed a similar resolution. Neither the Teller nor the Woodland Park resolutions have any punitive authority against the governor. However, Williams stated, “This resolution is a strong statement of intent from us to them that it’s time to return to normalcy and put control where it rightly belongs, at the local level, government closest to the people. We got this.”
Stone echoed similar views, and believes that by taking this type of stand, similar to Douglas County, other county government may follow in line. They hope to relay the message that it’s time for the emergency COVID actions mandated by the governor to end, and let local governments handle their heath concerns.