DENVER– Gov. John Hickenlooper’s push for gun-control laws may collide with 62 Colorado county sheriffs who issued a statement opposing measures that include universal background checks for gun transfers and banning high capacity magazines in excess of 15 rounds.
If the bills are signed into law, the county sheriffs may file a lawsuit against the state to halt the measures. The sheriffs issued a statement opposing the bills because they cannot be enforced without a gun registry and violate 2nd Amendment rights.
Hickenlooper called for gun-control measures in his State of the State address – a reversal from his statement that gun-control measures would not prevent tragedies such as the Aurora theater shooting in July.
The governor’s reversal drew praise from gun-control advocates, from the Democrats in the state legislature to Vice President Joe Biden, who lobbied for the measures.
“Congrats to Colorado House and Senate for passing universal background checks,” Biden tweeted. “The families of Aurora deserve a vote and got one. Now U.S. Congress must act too.”
After passing the Democrat-controlled legislature, three bills have been sent to the governor to be signed into law – universal background checks, fees for the checks and ban on magazines greater than 15 rounds.
Nearly a thousand people cheered and applauded El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa when he criticized the gun-control measures during a town hall meeting last week in Colorado Springs. He said the laws are not enforceable.
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said Friday that the sheriffs are discussing a potential lawsuit against the state if the gun-control measures are signed into law.
“They’re feel-good, knee-jerk reactions that are unenforceable,” said Cooke according to The Greeley Tribune.
Sheriffs and Republican lawmakers argued against the measure to limit magazines to 15 rounds because most magazines can be easily altered to add additional rounds. If signed into law, all magazines would be illegal to transfer, sell or purchase.
Proponents of universal background checks portend it will prevent violent crimes by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally disturbed individuals.
Opponents, including the sheriffs, have argued that bill hurts law abiding citizens – criminals will find a way to obtain weapons without background checks.
“At the end of the day, we have already said as a matter of public policy, that people who are convicted of murder, rape, larceny… are already prohibited from possession,” said state Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora).
Carroll said the bill would “close this ridiculous loophole” of private gun sales and transfers that are not currently subject to background checks.
No one disagrees with the intent of the bill, said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), but the bill is not about public safety.
“It’s virtually about, as you have heard, handling, touching, using, transporting guns which we are now calling transfers,” declared Cadman. “Virtually every possessive part of the gun is going to be called a transfer.”
“This bill is so broad, it’s been called the ‘flypaper law,” said Cadman. It has so many unintended consequences, he said, that The Outdoor Channel doesn’t want to encourage people to come toColorado.
“Are we going to stop all criminals from getting guns? No,” admitted state Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) a co-sponsor of the bill that was amended and passed Friday in the House and Senate.
A bill to disallow online training certifications to obtain concealed carry weapon permits and a measure to impose gun restrictions in domestic violence situations are pending in the House Judiciary Committee. McCann said that she plans to introduce a bill this week to tighten reporting systems of mentally ill individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.
Two measures – one making gun sellers and manufacturers liable and another to ban concealed carry weapons on college campuses – were postponed until May 10, after the legislative session.
Though it appeared the two measures were withdrawn, Maketa said he worries that they will be back on the table if Hickenlooper calls a Special Session.