DENVER–There may be a few party-crashers when President Obama arrives Wednesday to celebrate Colorado’s newly approved gun-control laws.
Sixteen Colorado county sheriffs announced Tuesday they would hold a press conference shortly before the president’s visit to “share their perspective on Colorado’s restrictive gun laws and President Obama’s advocacy visit to the state.”
The sheriffs’ event is slated for 1 p.m. at Thomas (Fred N.) Memorial Park in Denver, “conveniently located within one mile” of the president’s appearance later that afternoon at the Denver Police Academy, according to the statement.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith offered a glimpse of the sheriffs’ perspective at a forum Tuesday at which he blamed the gun-control agenda in part on national political figures and described the presidential visit to Colorado as a “victory dance.”
Gun-rights advocates have accused the White House and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of orchestrating the state legislature’s push for gun control. The three bills passed the Democrat-controlled legislature without a single Republican vote.
“In my opinion, there were marching orders from Bloomberg and from the president, ‘Get this done. We want to own some ground in Colorado,’” said Mr. Smith at a panel on gun control sponsored by the Denver Post. “They’ve done it. The president’s planning to come here and do, I think, a little bit of a victory dance tomorrow that, ‘We got this passed in Colorado.’”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Colorado Democrat, drew laughs when he chided the sheriff. “We were having a pretty good discussion until you wanted to jump in on the president,” said Mr. Perlmutter.
Mr. Smith rebuked state Democrats for failing to include the Colorado sheriffs in discussions prior to the introduction of the legislation, saying they were “shut out” as a result of political pressure to push through the bills as quickly as possible.
“It really was at the state level a rush to legislate,” said Mr. Smith. “And I believe they wanted to do it because they knew that emotions and public sentiment would move back to more of a center and they had to get it done before that.”
Mr. Obama is slated to meet with local law enforcement and community leaders as well as deliver remarks on Colorado’s newly approved gun-control laws.
The two events reveal a divide on gun-control within the state’s law-enforcement community. The County Sheriffs of Colorado opposed the bills, while the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police supported them.
Another difference is that sheriffs tend to be more politically independent. County sheriffs are elected directly by the voters and usually cover larger, more rural areas, while police chiefs oversee municipalities and are typically appointed by elected city leaders.
The bills, which go into effect July 1, would limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, including magazines that can be readily converted to hold more than 15 rounds; mandate universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers, and require gun owners to pay for their background checks.
Several county sheriffs have announced that they will not enforce the magazine limit, calling it unenforceable. Sheriffs have said it will be impossible to figure out who owned magazines exceeding 15 rounds before July 1 and who purchased them afterward.