By Erica Goode / New York Times / December 15, 2013
GREELEY, Colo. … Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions. Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes.
A Federal District Court judge last month ruled against a claim in the sheriffs’ lawsuit that one part of the magazine law was unconstitutionally vague. The judge also ruled that while the sheriffs could sue as individuals, they had no standing to sue in their official capacity.
Still, the state’s top law enforcement officials acknowledged that sheriffs had wide discretion in enforcing state laws.
ï¿½Weï¿½re not in the position of telling sheriffs and chiefs what to do or not to do,ï¿½ said Lance Clem, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. ï¿½We have people calling us all the time, thinking theyï¿½ve got an issue with their sheriff, and we tell them we donï¿½t have the authority to intervene.ï¿½
“… Sheriff Cooke, for his part, said that he was entitled to use discretion in enforcement, especially when he believed the laws were wrong or unenforceable.
ï¿½In my oath it says Iï¿½ll uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Colorado,ï¿½ he said, as he posed for campaign photos in his office ï¿½ he is running for the State Senate in 2014. ï¿½It doesnï¿½t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.ï¿½
[Note: The sheriffs have made no public comment since, 8 days after this report appeared, an 18 year-old purchased a firearm, stormed Arapahoe High School in Colorado, and killed a fellow student. The high school is within 10 miles of Columbine High School and the Aurora Movie Theater, sites of prior massacres by firearm. Greeley, Colorado, Sheriff Cooke’s town, is 50 miles away.]