Grand County officials oppose red flag gun bill, mull sanctuary status

As Colorado’s state legislature considers adoption of a controversial new red flag gun, law local governments throughout the state are lending their opinions on the issue, including officials from Grand County.

Grand County Board of Commissioners briefly discussed the issue Tuesday with Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin during on-record comments at the beginning of the board’s regularly scheduling meeting. Conversation included discussion of both the red flag bill itself as well as the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that has cropped up in the state in response to the legislation.

“I think right now we need to see how this bill actually plays out before we get too involved, there could be a lot of changes out there,” Schroetlin told the Commissioners Tuesday. “As far as the sanctuary county, we as elected officials already take an oath to support our constitution, including the second amendment. That is where I will leave it right now.”

Schroetlin said he opposes the red flag law bill as it is currently written but felt it was important that he respect the legislative process and the separation of powers within government. Schroetlin noted that as a member of law enforcement he is part of the executive branch of government and as such his role is to enforce laws, not to write or interpret laws.

“I will follow the process that our government is set up to follow,” Schroetlin said. “There are always changes as a bill proceeds through the process.”

In regards to sanctuary county status Schroetlin elaborated on his comments from Tuesday.

“As sheriff I take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution, Colorado Constitution and the laws of Colorado,” he said. “Every day we are constantly supporting the constitution and the laws of the state, whether that is a fourth amendment search and seizure issue, a due process issue, a freedom of speech issue, they all play into what we do on a regular basis. Every time one of my deputies stops somebody they are evaluating constitutional issues and are making sure we don’t violate someone’s rights.”

Schroetlin called the issue a “complicated question” and stressed his belief that he and his deputies would continue to protect the second amendment rights of citizens whether or not Colorado passes the red flag gun law. He also noted that he believes the law, if passed, will be challenged in court to determine its constitutionality.

Grand County’s three commissioners echoed Schroetlin’s comments, all of whom expressed their opposition to the proposed red flag gun law. Following Schroetlin’s comments on Tuesday, Commissioner Kris Manguso added, “I think that was very well said.”

Commissioners Merrit Linke and Rich Cimino said they oppose the gun bill.

“It is really just another attempt at gun grabbing,” Linke said.

Cimino said he believes it will land on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Both Linke and Cimino were more nuanced on the topic of declaring Grand County a sanctuary county. Linke noted that such a declaration from the county could put the Sheriff’s office and its deputies in a “difficult position” and that such a declaration could be a possible violation of the state constitution.

“I’m not quite certain where I would go on a sanctuary declaration,” he said.

Cimino said he was against a declaration at this time.

“I have spent the last two years trying to unite Grand County,” he said. “I am against a sanctuary ordinance that would divide Grand County.”

Cimino said he believes the ordinances approving sanctuary status in other county’s are “probably not enforceable” if the red flag gun bill is approved, noting orders to remove guns from citizens would be issued by a judge as court orders. He added that he would likely support such a declaration though if Sheriff Schroetlin felt the declaration would help his department navigate the contentious issue.

Grand County has previously passed a resolution, in 2013, that declares the county’s support for the second amendment. In February 2013, Linke and then commissioners James Newberry and Gary Bumgarner approved resolution 2013-2-20.

The resolution states that Grand County “will uphold the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States … and will act in conformity with our sworn duties as duly elected officials charged with public trust.” The resolution goes on to state that neither the U.S. Congress nor the Colorado legislature “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.”

About the proposed red flag law

At the beginning of Colorado’s 2019 state legislative session several state representatives, with two state senate cosponsors, introduced a piece of legislation colloquially known as the red flag gun law. The bill, officially titled HB 19-1177: Extreme Risk Protection Orders, is almost exactly identical to a similar bill that was introduced by Democratic lawmakers in 2018 but failed to pass out of the then Republican controlled senate.

If approved the bill would establish a system under which a Colorado court could require a citizen to surrender all firearms in his or her possession based on the belief that the individual in question poses a significant risk to themselves or others. The authority of state courts to require citizens to relinquish their firearms would be based upon the issuance of an extreme risk protection order.

HB 19-1177 would officially establish extreme risk protection orders in state law. Under the bill law three different categories of people would be able to petition a court to impose an initial temporary extreme risk protection order to have another citizen’s firearms removed.

To petition the court to impose an extreme risk protection order a person must be a family member or household member of the individual upon whom they are seeking to impose the protection order. Additionally, law enforcement officers would also be able to petition the court for the imposition of such a protection order.

Under the system that would be created by the bill extreme risk protection orders would be imposed on an initial “temporary” basis, lasting no more than 14 days, and on a “continuing” basis. If a continuing extreme risk protection order were imposed on a citizen the order would prevent that individual from possessing, controlling, purchasing or receiving a firearm for 364 days.

Nationwide there are currently 14 different states that have some version of a red flag gun law already in place: Washington, Oregon, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont. As Colorado’s senate debates the proposed law legislators just over our southern border in New Mexico are also considering a similar measure, though neither state has approved their respective versions of the bill.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.