Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee is one of 55 county sheriffs who have independently decided to join a lawsuit asking the federal district court in Denver for a "judicial review" of two new Colorado gun control laws.
McKee said the sheriffs are seeking to have the laws overturned, and that plaintiffs in the suit are prepared to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal, if necessary.
"When these laws were first proposed, I began getting calls from numerous constituents concerned about infringement of their Second Amendment rights," McKee told the DCI. "I see it as my responsibility to make sure that the citizens of Delta County are represented in this suit."
The sheriffs are joined by 20 private individuals, businesses, and groups including The Colorado Outfitters Association and Women for Concealed Carry, in asking the district court to enter declaratory judgment. The plaintiffs want the court to void provisions of state laws that ban certain firearm magazines and that require official background checks for private-party firearms sales and other transfers.
The sheriffs of neighboring counties including Mesa, Montrose, Garfield and Gunnison, and others have also joined the suit. Private funds, not local tax dollars, are the source of financing for the legal effort, McKee confirmed. McKee is currently president of the County Sheriff's of Colorado trade group which is not a party to the suit because its bylaws require unanimous approval to join the action. There are 64 counties in Colorado.
During General Assembly committee hearings on the bills last summer, over half of the state's sheriff departments were represented in on-site testimony against the two bills. Although two of the proposed bills passed and were signed into law, several others were killed.
The sheriffs' suit, filed on May 17, says that provisions of the two state laws violate the Second Amendment (Bill of Rights) and the and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (due process clause). The laws also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the suit says.
The Independence Institute of Denver is coordinating the effort, and an Institute attorney, David B. Kopel, is representing the sheriffs. More information on the suit can be found at the Independence Institute's website. Other plaintiffs have attorneys representing them also.
Named defendant is governor John Hickenlooper.
The suit asks the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining Hickenlooper and "any officers, agents, and employees of the State of Colorado from administering or enforcing any provisions of HB 1224 and 1229 found to violate the United States Constitution or the Americans With Disabilities Act." The suit also seeks attorney's fees and court costs for the plaintiffs.
"I am in full agreement for the need of judicial review for these laws," McKee said. "The suit maintains the laws are vague and therefore unenforceable. They criminalise innocent people to the extent that they are unenforceable."
McKee also said the two laws are not effective in their stated intent. "These laws don't make people safer than before they were passed. We need to deal with criminals, not with the honest citizens who own firearms. These laws have failed in that regard."
During General Assembly debate on the laws last summer, the sheriffs offered suggestions and alternatives which were not acted on by the Democratic controlled Statehouse.
"We offered some alternatives including mandatory sentencing for convictions on crimes using firearms, and that no plea bargains be allowed in these cases," McKee said. "We also need to allow for mental health professionals to communicate with law enforcement about people they are legitimately, professionally concerned about that may pose a threat to society."
McKee said that he has received much support locally, and from as far as other states for the position taken by the sheriffs in the lawsuit.blog comments powered by Disqus