Many of Colorado's elected sheriffs are refusing to enforce new gun laws passed in the state, including universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines that carry more than 15 rounds.
Despite this month's ruling from U.S. District Judge Marcia Kreiger saying that the sheriffs don't have legal standing to challenge the laws in their official capacity, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke told The New York Times over the weekend that he and other sheriffs are refusing to enforce the new laws, calling them too vague and a violation of the Second Amendment.
Other sheriffs told the newspaper that enforcement of the new gun laws will be "a very low priority."
Fifty-five of Colorado's 62 elected sheriffs joined the lawsuit to overturn the new gun laws, which they call unconstitutional.
This isn't the first time Cooke has voiced his doubts about the new laws. Back in March, he called them "unenforceable" and that they "give a false sense of security," according to the Greeley Tribune. Cooke said that the Democratic lawmakers who passed the laws this year in Colorado are "uninformed" and are passing "knee-jerk reaction" laws in reaction to the Aurora theater shooting in Colorado and the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, both in 2012.
Despite the sheriffs' refusal to enforce the new laws, Eric Brown, spokesman for Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (D), told The New York Times, “Particularly on background checks, the numbers show the law is working.”
Since the universal background check law was passed in Colorado, 72 firearm sales were blocked because the would-be buyer was convicted of or charged with a serious crime, or was under a domestic restraining order, according to data released by the Department of Public Safety last week.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed a package of new gun control measures into law in 2013, including universal background checks and the ammunition magazine limit. Support for the new gun laws resulted in the first-ever recall election in state history, which ousted two Democrats -- Senate President John Morse (Colo. Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo).
A third recall effort against another Democrat, state Sen. Evie Hudak (Westminster), over her support of the gun control legislation, resulted in her resignation in November.
Last night, Morse appeared on MSNBC's "The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell" attacking Cooke, saying that his ultimate goal is to repeal the post-Columbine massacre Amendment 22 in Colorado, which requires background checks at gun shows.
ColoradoPols surfaced a questionnaire reportedly filled out by Cooke, in which he states that he would like to see the repeal of the gun show background check law and the national Brady "insta-check" background check law required for all firearms purchases from gun dealers.
Despite the controversy, the new gun control laws appear to be popular among a majority of Colorado voters.
According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, when asked about the new gun control laws in general Colorado voters said they are opposed, but when asked about the laws specifically, the voters flipped.
When asked about universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers, those surveyed overwhelmingly approved, 85-14. And when asked about the statewide ban on high capacity magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, voters still approve, albeit by a very slim margin, 49-48.
"Voters don't like gun control, or maybe they just don't like the words, 'gun control,'" said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "There's some support for limiting multi-round magazines, and overwhelming support for background checks."
Sheriff Cooke added to the New York Times, "In my oath it says I’ll uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Colorado. It doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.”
In a conversation The Colorado Independent's Mike Litwin, Cooke did clarify that he doesn't believe sheriffs should have the final say in what is or isn't constitutional.
"I never once said I get to decide what’s constitutional," Cooke said to The Colorado Independent. "That’s above my pay grade. But if a reporter asks me if I think a law is unconstitutional, I’m allowed to say, aren’t I? I’m allowed to say that I think there are more heinous crimes than a guy who sells his shotgun to his next door neighbor that he’s known for 20 years.”
But Litwin questions the logic:
And yet, I wonder if that’s how the Founding Fathers would have seen it. Because I looked, and I couldn’t find anywhere in either the U.S. Constitution or Colorado Constitution where it says that, if all else fails, a sheriff shall decide.
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.