Grand County officials object to gun bills
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS – Grand County commissioners passed a resolution on Tuesday that makes a statement supporting the Second Amendment and the Colorado Constitution’s Article II Section 13, addressing the right to bear arms.With at least four gun laws presently making their way through the Democratic-controlled Colorado Legislature, Commissioner Merrit Linke presented to the board a form resolution circulating among counties, in particular one passed by Montrose County. Commissioners discussed the language in the resolution during two separate meetings, ultimately paring down the Montrose version and wordsmithing Grand County’s own version. The resolution passed unanimously, but only after Linke conceded to Commissioner James Newberry he would agree to removing a few lofty “whereas” paragraphs about the ancient history of self-defense and tyrants throughout history. A prior version of the resolution, on which Newberry cast a no vote, had 11 extra paragraphs that ultimately were struck from the final version. When Commissioner Gary Bumgarner moved to send the lengthier resolution to state and federal elected officials, Linke said he would concede to remove paragraphs in order to have a unanimous board showing support for the resolution. Newberry, a gun owner himself who commented his no vote would appear to the electorate that he is a “liberal” gun-control advocate, argued the county would be better off simplifying its resolution and staying on-message about the Second Amendment, rather than opening up the chance for opponents to pick apart the language. The resolution was then amended to its final version.Newberry, the only Democrat on the board, believes legislators are misguided in thinking gun laws can control gun violence on what is really “a mental-health issue,” he said. After quoting the Second Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution, the approved resolution includes a small paragraph custom to Grand County:”Whereas, the board of county commissioners of the County of Grand, State of Colorado believes that the historic and cultural heritage of Grand County supports the right of the residents and visitors of Grand County to possess, buy, sell, trade and use firearms;”In the final paragraph, the resolution states that Grand County Commissioners have sworn to uphold laws, and that “neither the United States Congress nor the Colorado General Assembly of the State of Colorado should entertain consideration of any new legislation that would infringe on constitutionally protected rights under the Second Amendment through any means, including additional restrictions on lawful firearms and accessories, or on the possession, use, sale, transfer or registration of legitimately owned firearms.”Sheriffs against new lawsSeveral citizens at the commissioners’ meetings spoke strongly in favor of gun rights, and Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson spoke in alignment with a five-page position paper the County Sheriffs of Colorado released against proposed gun control legislation. “Our sympathies are with the victims in the Aurora theater shooting and at Sandy Hook,” the paper reads. “However, the sheriffs do not believe this is the appropriate time to introduce gun control legislation because decisions likely will be made on emotion rather than reason and that this is not in the best interest of Colorado. It is the Sheriff’s opinion that all gun control bills be tabled.”Johnson, like the position of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said he is against requiring background checks for private transfers of firearms, saying counties do not have the resources to enforce this potential law and there are concerns it could lead to a national database of gun owners. “County Sheriffs of Colorado believe government – whether state or federal – does not have the right to know who owns a firearm or for what reason when used for lawful and peaceful purposes,” the position paper states.Pending legislationFour bills concerning guns have passed third readings in the Colorado House: HB 1224 would prohibit large capacity magazines, defined as those that can accept more than 15 rounds of ammunition or eight shotgun shells. The law would not apply to those in law enforcement, and existing ownership of such guns would be grandfathered in. If the law is passed, after July 1, purchase or sale of these guns in Colorado could lead to a class 2 misdemeanor for first offense and class 1 misdemeanor for second and subsequent violations; but if a crime is committed, it could result in a class 6 felony.HB 1229 would require anyone buying a firearm from any source to undergo a background check and obtain approval from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation prior to buying the firearm. Individuals who are not licensed gun dealers would have to arrange for a licensed gun dealer to obtain the necessary background check; the fee for the service would be capped at $10. Violators would be subject to a class 1 misdemeanor.According to the legislative fiscal notes, about 400,000 background checks will occur this year under the current law, which requires licensed dealers to perform background checks, representing about 67 percent of all gun transfers. With the proposed background-check law, there is the potential for 1,000 new charges of class 1 misdemeanors in the state.”The new misdemeanor created by the bill will increase workload and expenditures in district attorneys’ and county sheriff’s offices,” the notes state.HB 1228 is about the Colorado Bureau of Investigation charging a proposed $10 fee for the cost of performing each instant criminal background check prior to the transfer of a firearm. And HB 1226, co-sponsored by House District 13 Rep. Claire Levy, would restrict possession of concealed handguns on university campuses.- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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