Battle Lines Getting Drawn Again Over Second Amendment Rights
Teller County has apparently lost a big legislative fight against the latest state pro-gun control maneuver.
The county commissioners concede that their effort, along that of other rural areas in Colorado, to squash the “Safe and Secure Firearms Storage Act,” which now appears to be a signature away from a done deal, has fallen short. The state Senate early last week followed in the footsteps of the House and approved the bill, requiring gun owners to use locking devices, gun safes and other devices to secure firearms at home.
This is bound to trigger a big backlash in Teller County and other rural areas, and reignite the question of protecting Second Amendment (gun ownership) rights. Teller County, on a per capita basis, sports one of the highest gun ownership rates in the country.
Proponents, though, say the gun security measure is a targeted effort, aimed at keeping kids safe and to prevent suicides.
“We know from data across the country that bills like this one work,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village, during last week’s debate. “States with these kinds of laws have 68 percent fewer firearm-related suicides than states without them.”
A few other lawmakers cited personal stories how easy access to guns by kid led to their death.
But opponents, including the Teller County commissioners and key GOP state leaders, contend the measure could make firearm owners less capable of defending themselves. Moreover, they have cited the fact that this may give burglars more incentives to commit home invasions, as property owners would be forced to lock up their firearms.
“We have made our stand known, and am afraid we can’t do anything to stop this,” said Teller County Commissioner Erik Stone, who has been a big vocal opponent of the legislation, along with his fellow board members, Bob Campbell and Dan Williams.
In fact, at a recent meeting, the commissioners passed a resolution against the gun security bill. They cited a variety of constitutional cases, and maintained the state has no authority to “regulate and define what firearms a citizen chooses for defense…and how firearms must be secured or stored… (declaring) that this proposed law infringes upon the rights of adults and minor children in defense of (his/her) home or self.”
The commissioners had a spirited discussion on the gun safety measure and classified this as another attempt to impose gun restrictions in rural areas that aren’t needed. In both the coronavirus proceedings and in gun control measures, the commissioners have advocated personal responsibility.
In an interview last week Stone believes the new law will lead to a “multitude of lawsuits.”
“I am disappointed they (state lawmakers) took this action. This really makes a criminal out of any lawful owner of a firearm,” said Stone. “It is unconstitutional…It is going to affect citizens’ rights to access their firearms and act in their self-defense.”
For example, he said it could even affect kids in a rural area, who may have to protect their property from wild animals occasionally. And if these weapons are locked up at all times, this could cause harm, noted Stone.
In a larger sense, Stone believes the legislation is part of a growing state lawmaker trend to declare war on the Second Amendment.
Besides this legislation, another proposal has been introduced, requiring gun owners to report to law enforcement officials within five days of learning that their guns have been lost or stolen. Governor Jared Polis hasn’t decided whether to act on this measure, but has indicated support for the gun safety and security measure, House Bill 21-1106.
Part of a More Gun Restrictive Trend
Stone fears these measures could set a bad signal in the state and now believes that the types of specific firearms and guns owned by citizens could soon come under fire.
“If they really want to do something that is effective, then keep weapons out the hands of felons. That is the real problem,” said the commissioner.
The new pro-gun security legislation has also sparked concerns about enforcement. The Teller County Sheriff’s Department has consistently questioned laws that put more restrictions on the rights of citizens to own and operate firearms. Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell had extreme reservations about the Red Flag law, aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those deemed as mentally unstable.
However, with the recent mass shooting in Boulder and new efforts proposed by the Biden administration, a new round of gun control efforts could get loaded again.
But from a common-sense perspective, Jon DeVaux, who co-owns Alpine Firearms in Woodland Park, questions how any of these are going to be enforced. He is not concerned about the impact of the probable new safety and security gun law. He said his store does provide devices, enabling customers to lock up and store their weapons safely at a very low cost.
“The only time this is going to really come into effect is if a major crime occurs, involving a kid who accesses a weapon that wasn’t locked up,” said DeVaux.
He doesn’t see how the sheriff’s department or other law enforcement agencies can check on personal gun security efforts of individual citizens.
Regardless, the issue may once again trigger debate on the rights of local gun owners.
Previously, when state lawmakers tried to enact gun control laws about 10 years ago, a near mutiny erupted in Teller County. Plus, the current board of commissioners has taken a more active role in advocating their stand on key state issues, involving citizens’ rights.