Colorado sheriffs rebel against new gun-control laws
After a marathon debate in which several of the loopier measures were shot down (and many astoundingly foolish things were said), Colorado finally managed to pass a couple of new gun control laws, which now await the willing signature of Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. These new laws expand background checks, requiring gun owners to pay $10 for such a check when transferring firearms, and impose a 15-round limit on the capacity of magazines.
(And here I thought gun control zealots were convinced that 10 rounds was the limit for virtuous magazines. Or was it seven? How many bullets do you need to shoot a deer, again? I recall New York’s gun-grabbing governor, Andrew Cuomo, clearly stating that it was less than ten. Maybe they have really big deer out in Colorado.)
But even before the governor gets to sign the bill, Fox News reports that local sheriffs are announcing they won’t enforce the new laws. Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said “they’re feel-good, knee-jerk reactions that are unenforceable,” and they give citizens “a false sense of security.”
Cooke said the proposed firearms transfer requirement would not keep guns out of the hands of criminals, according to the GreeleyTribune.com report.
The sheriff told the news outlet that he and other county sheriffs “won’t bother enforcing” the laws because it won’t be possible to keep track of how gun owners are complying with the new requirements.
Cooke is joined in his opposition to the proposals by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who told an angry packed crowd at a meeting on Thursday in Colorado Springs he would stand firm against the bills.
“I can’t tell you when those were sold, bought and purchased. As far as I’m concerned, they were all pre-July 1 if the governor does sign this bill,” he said.
Maketa went on to say that he keeps records on concealed-carry permit holders, as required by law, but would “destroy the database if anyone tried to get their hands on it and would intervene if government agents started arresting county residents for exercising their constitutional rights.”
According to the Greeley Tribune, Cooke and other sheriffs “are considering a lawsuit against the state to block the measures if they are signed into law.”
The Fort Collins Coloradoan adds that Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith announced, in a January Facebook post regarding universal background checks, that he would not “enforce unconstitutional federal laws,” although I can find no comment about whether he holds that attitude toward the new state laws. He was unsparing in his criticism of such background checks at the federal level:
“I encourage thinking citizens of all political affiliations, or no political affiliation, to carefully and logically follow the shell game that is occurring before their very eyes,” Smith wrote. “The only possible way to achieve ‘universal background checks’ for private transactions of lawfully-owned firearms is to register every single firearm in existence in our nation. Otherwise, the federal government could never prove the transaction of a firearm.
“Anyone who fails to go through with such registration will be defined as a criminal by our federal government. That same government which all too often has failed to enforce the current laws against criminal predators, will then start to discriminately target and prosecute law-abiding Americans who are simply exercising their Constitutionally recognized Right to keep and bear arms.”
As to the question of whether these sheriffs have the discretion to refuse enforcing new gun laws, Smith contends that the Colorado Constitution gives sheriffs “the absolute obligation to protect the rights of citizens of the county, and the Sheriff is accountable directly to those citizens,” placing sheriffs in “an independent office which is not a subservient department of county, state, or federal government.” The Governor disagrees, saying through a spokesman that he “expects sheriffs in Colorado to uphold all state laws.”
Colorado Democrats already had veins popping out of their heads from Republican lawmakers asking questions about those background checks:
Democrats grew frustrated at GOP attempts to imagine scenarios that would trigger background-checks. From 4-H members learning gun safety but needing to borrow a shotgun, to neighbors on weeklong elk-hunting trips, Republicans argued the bill would ensnare harmless gun users.
Democrats insisted that existing exemptions in the bill would cover most scenarios the GOP imagined. The bill’s sponsor, Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll, told Republicans that Democrats had enough votes to pass the measure but extended debate to make small changes requested by Republicans.
So no problem if we pass an unwieldy, largely useless law – we’ve made it even more complicated by packing it full of exemptions that will probably save citizens from being classified as criminals when they engage in innocent, casual transfers of firearms. Meanwhile, the number of background checks undertaken by criminals will remain at zero point zero.
As for the $10 fee on background checks posing an undue burden upon gun owners, I seem to recall hearing a year or two of angry lectures from liberals about how the smallest, most incidental expense in acquiring a voter ID card – such as bus fare to pick up a free card at the local elections office – is tantamount to a racist poll tax that disenfranchises voters. Of course, they’d counter that a fee on the exercise of voting rights is far more significant than a fee on the exercise of Second Amendment rights, because some inalienable rights can be alienated but others cannot, and they reserve the power to decide which are which.
Sheriff Cooke’s point about “feel-good, knee-jerk” laws is also well taken. The gun control lobby is never honest, either politically or intellectually, about its ultimate aims. As with other small, steady increases to the size of the State, the failure of these incremental measures will only lead to louder cries for sterner measures down the line.
Meanwhile, Heaven help the citizen who thinks any of this stuff makes him measurably safer. Your next criminal assailant will not pay ten bucks for a background check on the gun he’s holding, and it won’t really matter if it holds 7, 10, or 15 rounds, or an illegally modified magazine that exceeds whatever the current arbitrary limit happens to be. And if those limited magazines prove a serious inconvenience to the next mass murderer, he can always use bombs, as prospective University of Central Florida marauder James Seevakumaran apparently planned to do, before aborting his mass-murder scheme by committing suicide.