Nearly all of Colorado's county sheriffs have signed onto a federal lawsuit against the state of Colorado arguing that the new laws pushed by Democrats and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.
Sheriffs in 54 of Colorado's 64 counties joined the lawsuit with only Grand, Eagle, Pueblo, Chaffee, Conejos, San Miguel, Boulder, Pitkin, Broomfield and Denver counties opting-out.
The lawsuit takes aim at two of the bills Hickenlooper signed into law in March -- House Bill 1224, which banned high-capacity magazines limiting them to 15 rounds as well as House Bill 1229, the universal background check bill which requires background checks for all gun sales and transfers in the state.
"We each took an oath. The line in the sand has been drawn, and we will stand united," said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa who did join the lawsuit, The Denver Post reported.
The sheriffs filed the lawsuit in federal court Friday.
Republican Attorney General John Suthers, who is defending the state in the lawsuit, issued a statement Friday on the lawsuit. “In defending the lawsuit as counsel for the state, the objective of the Attorney General’s Office will be to get court rulings on the legality of various aspects of the legislation as expeditiously as possible," Suthers said in a statement. "Colorado citizens, and law-abiding gun owners in particular, deserve such clarification.”
In a guidance letter to law enforcement regarding how they should implement the new gun laws, Suthers elaborated on the legal definition of a "high-capacity magazine" saying that the magazine features "must be judged objectively" and that magazines that hold less than 15 rounds must not be defined as "large capacity" simply because it includes a removable baseplate which may be replaced with one that allows the magazine to accept additional rounds, but added "a magazine whose baseplate is replaced with one that does allow a magazine to accept more than fifteen rounds would be a "large capacity magazine."
Aurora theater shooting victims' relatives condemned the sheriffs for filing the lawsuit, accusing them of playing politics, The Associated Press' Ivan Moreno reports. "As a parent who lost my son Alex at the Aurora theater shooting, I ask these people to put themselves in my place," Tom Sullivan said in a statement. "I do not understand why these politicians are picking guns over people."
In the months since the gun control bills were first introduced in the Legislature, several of Colorado's sheriffs have made no secret of their opposition to the bills.
But El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa took to conservative talk radio station "The Jeff Crank Show" in March to accuse Colorado Springs Democratic Senate President John Morse of witholding a bill on pay raises for the County Sheriffs of Colorado because of their opposition to the gun control bills.
Maketa posted a lengthy piece titled "An Injustice Against Our Citizens" on the El Paso County Sheriff's main website and Facebook page alleging that the Senate Democrats turned away citizens who wanted to testify against House Bill 1229.
Earlier this month, just hours before President Barack Obama gave a speech in Colorado pressing Congress to pass gun control measures that would include a bill to expand background checks, 16 of the state's sheriffs held a press conference in protest.
“We are here to provide a voice to the millions of honest, law-abiding Coloradans who were ignored by their governor as well as by the majority (Democratic) party at the State House,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said.
In a postion paper on gun control, the County Sheriffs of Colorado publicly opposed the laws as well saying that “gun control does not equate to lower crime rates.”
From the position paper:
The County Sheriffs of Colorado know first hand that strict gun control laws do not deter criminals from getting firearms illegally and committing crimes. Rather, they hurt law-abiding citizens who may be left unprotected because law enforcement cannot arrive in time to stop a criminal's bullet once he (sic) has pulled the trigger.
After Governor John Hickenlooper signed ammunition magazine limits and expanded background checks into law, more sheriffs began calling the laws "unenforceable."
“We can’t figure out how these laws would be enforced at this point in time without violating someone’s constitutional rights,” Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger told Bloomberg.
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke then took it a step further and said he wouldn't enforce the laws, arguing that they give a "false sense of security."
The proposed lawsuit against the gun restrictions will reportedly be handled by attorney Dave Kopel, an adjunct professor of Advanced Constitutional Law at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law and research director at the Independence Institute.
Kopel recently penned an Op-Ed in the National Review Online titled "Turning Gun Owners Into Felons," which takes aim at universal background checks.
Also on HuffPost:
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.