In Breckenridge, sheriffs bringing gun lawsuit gather
Summit County Sheriff John Minor is among roughly 50 sheriffs in Colorado who have joined forces to bring a lawsuit against two of the three gun control laws state lawmakers passed this year in response to a number of recent firearm-related massacres.
Minor, like many in his position, calls the laws unenforceable and is asking the courts to overturn them.
The laws ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, except those purchased before July of this year, and require background checks for anyone who acquires a firearm.
Ambiguities in the laws make them difficult to enforce and could turn law-abiding citizens into criminals, officials involved in the suit say.
Many of the sheriffs in the suit — including Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, who has been a leader in the litigation effort and who has publicly refused to enforce the laws in his jurisdiction — gathered in Breckenridge this week for a conference at which the litigation will almost certainly be a topic of conversation.
The two-day meeting, hosted by County Sheriffs of Colorado, is held three times yearly, to provide training, opportunities for collaboration and legislative review. It isn’t focused on the lawsuit, but Minor said hot topics like marijuana, immigration and gun control are likely to come up.
”I’m sure there’ll be some heated debates over beer,” Minor said.
Summit County taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for either the conference or the lawsuit. The County Sheriffs of Colorado organization paid for the meeting, which took place all week at Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge, with funding from membership fees. The attorney on the lawsuit is handling the case pro bono, Minor said.
It claims the magazine-limit law and the background check bill violate the 2nd and 14th Amendments as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Minor and sheriffs from across the state opposed the gun-control laws from the time they were introduced, but said their advice was ignored at the state Capitol.
“The legislators already had their mind made up,” Cook said. “They were going to pass these laws no matter what. When we went down and testified, they didn’t listen, they didn’t care, they didn’t get any input from the sheriffs.”
The suit asks the court to overturn the laws. In the meantime, Minor said he plans to treat violations in Summit County on a case-by-case basis.
“We’ll probably have to look at each individual act on an individual basis,” Minor said. “We have almost zero firearms crime. Our last several homicides, a firearm wasn’t used as well. This is so exceptionally rare for us that we have the latitude, the time to take it to the DA, compare it to the guidelines, compare it to the law.”
The Colorado attorney general has issued some general guidelines to help in the enforcement of the laws.
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