By Jon Dougherty
A Colorado sheriff has come out and said publicly that he is willing to go to jail rather than enforce what he believes is an unconstitutional new gun law currently making its way through the state legislature.
The so-called “red flag” law would grant police the authority to go to a judge and get an order to confiscate a person’s guns who was thought to be a threat to themselves or society — without that person being given a chance to speak on his or her behalf in court.
Sheriff Steve Reams says that’s so wrong, constitutionally speaking, that he is willing to put himself in legal jeopardy rather than enforce the new law, which appears set for passage in the Legislature. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, is expected to sign it, CNN reports.
It’s a matter of doing what’s right,” he said.
Second Amendment advocates like Reams say the law turns American jurisprudence upside down. Called “extreme risk protection orders,” the measure assumes that someone is going to commit a crime before they actually do — or ever will. Such laws also deprive citizens of their Fifth Amendment due process rights.
Red flag laws are being pushed mostly by Democrats who no doubt see them as another way around the Second Amendment. In Colorado, the law is being pushed by anti-gun activists who are using single incidents to potentially punish law-abiding gun owners.
Colorado’s “extreme risk protection order” bill would allow a family member, a roommate, or law enforcement to petition a judge to take someone’s firearms if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The push for legislation followed the death of Zack Parrish, the 29-year-old Douglas County sheriff’s deputy killed in 2017 by a man with an arsenal of weapons who authorities said had a history of bizarre behavior, including threats to police.
Parrish’s former boss, Sheriff Tony Spurlock, has been one of the most vocal advocates of the bill and says he believes it could have prevented Parrish’s death. Democratic House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, agrees.
The other House sponsor is Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting in 2012.
If a judge were to issue an order to have a person’s guns confiscated — to “protect” them — and a sheriff fails to enforce it, the judge could then hold that sheriff in contempt. The judge could then fine the sheriff until he complied or have him thrown in jail
Reams says go for it.
“Going in and taking their guns and leaving the scene, I can’t see how that makes them less of a risk. It just takes one tool away,” Reams told CNN, adding that if a person wanted to hurt themselves or others, they’ll find another way to do it — like use a knife or a vehicle, the latter of which has happened often in recent years.
David Kopel, a constitutional law expert who has written extensively about gun policy in the United States, isn’t necessarily opposed to the intent behind the bill — he just thinks it’s got a lot of potential for abuse.
“The gun ban lobbies are getting more and more extreme and aggressive,” he told the network.
Under the bill, a second hearing is required within 14 days where the gun owner could appear in court to appeal the decision to have his guns confiscated. Fine; but if the gun owner fails to convince the judge that his firearms should be returned, then they could remain in police custody for as much as a year.
How could this go wrong, considering that cops and courts would only need the ‘word’ of an aggrieved ex-girlfriend, angry spouse, or neighbor to have a person’s Second and Fifth Amendment rights taken away?
Kopel added another “nightmare” scenario: Having someone misuse the law to take guns away from someone they intend to harm. He said the legal bar is too low — the “preponderance of the evidence,” which is the same standard that courts require in civil cases, and a much lower bar than the criminal standard, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In typical arrogant fashion, Garnett said he won’t lose any sleep over Reams if he decides not to enforce the law and goes to jail. Rather, “I’m going to lose sleep over is, if that’s the choice that they make and someone loses their life, someone in crisis goes on a shooting spree, (or) someone commits suicide,” he said.
Also, he dismissed critics of the law who rightfully worry that it will be abused and wrongfully punish citizens.
“The opposition is always there. It will always be there and there’s nothing, there’s no amendments or any changes that could be made to bring the sheriff from Weld County onboard,” he said.
Reams agreed, noting that even with amendments, he’s not going to enforce the law if it passes.
He’s not alone. Several of Colorado’s counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” as Democrats in their state and others rush to implement red flag laws that conflict with the Constitution and historical American legal precedence:
A total of 32 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuary, or preservation, counties or passed similar resolutions. Most vow support for their sheriffs and state that no resources or money will be used to enforce unconstitutional laws. Another two counties already had similar resolutions on the books, and one other has sent a letter to the legislature declaring its opposition.
Even Douglas County, where Deputy Parrish was killed, passed a similar resolution pledging that no county resources would be used in the enforcement of the red flag law, despite Sheriff Spurlock’s support for the legislation.
Some legal experts said there could be civil or criminal penalties for any law enforcement official who does not enforce the new law. But then again, defenders of the gun sanctuaries ask: Where is the legal justification for some of these same Colorado jurisdictions to declare themselves “sanctuary cities” that refuse to enforce immigration laws? How can states pass laws ‘legalizing’ marijuana when it remains illegal on the federal level, given the “supremacy clause?”
It appears as though Second Amendment advocates are drawing a line in the sand over this legislation, using Democrats’ own playbook against them.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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