Weld County commissioners on Wednesday added their voices to the national debate on gun control, initially passing an ordinance that prohibits the board from restricting the Second Amendment rights of Weld residents.
The ordinance was crafted by county officials after commissioners said they were approached by a group of about 30 residents who said they believe recently passed state legislation is infringing on their right to bear arms.
The new state law, signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in March, requires background checks for private and online gun sales and limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
"We are all, quite frankly, appalled in terms of what the General Assembly has done this year with the Second Amendment," Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said at Wednesday's meeting. The code change will go through two more public hearings, on May 22 and June 10, before commissioners can finalize it.
The ordinance reasserts the right to bear arms in the U.S. and state constitutions and outlines ways that commissioners are prohibited from infringing on those rights.
The board cannot enact an ordinance that limits the ammunition capacity of a firearm magazine, requires background checks for owners of a firearm, charges a fee related to firearms, requires any specialized training related to firearms, limits the possession of a firearm to any specific class of person or limits where someone can carry a firearm in unincorporated parts of the county.
The ordinance would not affect firearms on county-owned property or for county employees (with the exception of the sheriff's office).
Employees could be liable if they have firearms while on the job, and firearms are restricted on county-owned property to protect those employees, said Bruce Barker, Weld County attorney.
Barker said the ordinance addresses what is within commissioners' power to respond to the new state laws. He said commissioners cannot enact an ordinance to keep those laws from applying in Weld County, as the original group of residents had hoped, because it violates a number of state and federal regulations.
The ordinance comes after Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, alongside two other Colorado sheriffs, spearheaded an effort to file a lawsuit against the state to overturn the new gun laws.
Conway said the commissioners are discussing with Barker what they can legally do to participate in that lawsuit.
"As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I commend you as commissioners to take whatever action to protect the citizens of Weld and not allow any infringements on their rights," said Margie Martinez-Perusek, who announced her candidacy Tuesday for Weld County sheriff.
Commissioners asked Martinez-Perusek a number of tongue-in-cheek questions on her experience with gun control as a law enforcement officer, taking the opportunity to outline their view that restricting high ammunition guns will not stop criminals from getting their hands on them.
"I agree completely with Commissioner Conway, although the term 'appalled' is a little light for me," Weld County Commissioner Doug Rademacher said.
Commissioners Mike Freeman and Bill Garcia echoed those comments.
"I wish the board could do more than this," Freeman said.
We are all, quite frankly, appalled in terms of what the General Assembly has done this year with the Second Amendment.
-- Sean Conway, Weld County commissioner ___