Colorado Sheriffs Threaten Not To Enforce Their Own State’s Gun Laws

For months, local sheriffs have been objecting to federal efforts to stem gun violence in the wake of the Newtown massacre, claiming they violate “states’ rights.” Now, with a package of gun violence prevention measures awaiting the governor’s signature in a state that has seen some of the most deadly and high-profile mass shootings, several Colorado county sheriffs are threatening not to enforce their own state’s measures to expand criminal background checks and limit ammunition magazines if they are signed into law. The Greeley Tribune reports:

Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said he won’t enforce either gun-control measure waiting to be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, saying the laws are “unenforceable” and would “give a false sense of security.” […]

“They’re feel-good, knee-jerk reactions that are unenforceable,” he said.

Cooke said the bill requiring a $10 background check to legally transfer a gun would not keep firearms out of the hands of those who use them for violence.

“Criminals are still going to get their guns,” he said.

Cooke said the other bill would also technically ban all magazines because of a provision that outlaws any magazine that can be altered. He said all magazines can be altered to a higher capacity.

Cooke said he, like other county sheriffs, “won’t bother enforcing” the laws because it will be impossible for them to keep track of how the requirements are being met by gun owners. He said he and other sheriffs are considering a lawsuit against the state to block the measures if they are signed into law.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa also said Thursday that several of the laws are unenforceable and that he would willfully ignore the high-capacity magazine limit. And Cooke’s position appears to have the support of a number of other state sheriffs; during testimony calling the law unenforceable, 20 other county sheriffs stood behind him in solidarity.


Sheriffs’ assertions that the laws are simply too difficult to enforce and/or ineffective is the latest in a string of arguments by a contingent of county sheriffs opposed to any new gun violence prevention measures. Other sheriffs, several of whom are part of a fringe militia group whose members believe that sheriffs are the highest law enforcement authorities and vow to defy any law or order that violates their radical view of the Constitution, have argued that federal regulation violates states’ rights and the Second Amendment.

Conservative legislators are also already committing to repeal the ammunition magazine limit if enacted through a 2014 ballot measure.

Other measures that passed both houses of the Colorado legislature include a requirement that firearm buyers pay for their own background checks, a ban on online certification for concealed-carry permits, and a ban on gun purchases by people convicted of domestic violence crimes.