Colorado Sheriff Calls State's New Gun Control Laws "Unenforceable"

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

While Colorado Democrats are shying away from a bill requiring a waiting period for gun purchases, they’ve still got three new gun control bills in the state legislature in addition to Gov. Jared Polis already signing two pieces of legislation a couple of weeks ago. Those bills mandate new storage requirements on all gun owners as well as imposing fines on gun owners who fail to report lost or stolen firearms within five days of learning about the gun’s disappearance.

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell is among those objecting to the new laws, speaking bluntly about the real impact that the new laws are having.

“The legislature keeps putting out laws that are unenforceable,” said Mikesell. “So, it’s causing a rift between law enforcement and the community.”

Word on the street as well as on social media has generated strong reactions that have reached the sheriff. “The community believes that we are going to be enforcing a mandatory inspection in their homes by knocking on the door,” he said.

Mikesell is right that the storage law is completely unenforceable from a proactive standpoint. The only time it could come into play is after someone has gained access to the gun and used it in a way that resulted in a police investigation. But that’s not how Democrats sold the bill to the public. They claimed that this would actually prevent accidental shootings or juveniles getting ahold of a gun when they shouldn’t be able to, which would imply that there’s some sort of proactive policing involved here. That’s not the case, but it sounds like a lot of Mikesell’s constituents are understandably confused and concerned.

The laws are putting law enforcement between a rock and a hard place, he said. “We are not supportive of this if the state is going to do gun confiscation.”

While HB21-1106 does not include language about gun confiscation, Mikesell believes the new law is a lead into just that. “I think the state legislature is pushing more toward confiscation of assault weapons and bans on these items that people have paid for,” he said.

The sheriff states that he believes the safe-storage law is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. “The Fourth Amendment means items can’t be seized. And that also means firearms,” he said. “This is something I never thought was going to be an issue, where I would worry about the seizure of firearms.”

Two years ago, Mikesell expressed his opposition to the state’s red-flag law, and now he’s making it clear that he doesn’t expect to be using the latest additions to Colorado’s gun control laws.

In defending his position on both laws, Mikesell cites the “Officer Discretion,” clause in the state constitution. “We don’t have to charge people with laws if we don’t believe they are right, necessary or a good reason,” Mikesell said.

As it stands, if a shooting — accidental or otherwise — occurs in the home, law enforcement investigates. “If an accident occurred, we would look at reckless endangerment by the way they stored the gun and anything else,” he said. “It’s always been that way.”

The new law changes the way it has always been, according to Mikesell. “The issue now is that the legislative body is saying we must do something in the privacy of your own home,” he said. “Those types of laws are now making everyone a criminal. I just don’t think they’re enforceable.”

I’m glad to see the sheriff taking such a clear-cut stand in support of the Second and Fourth Amendment rights of the residents of Teller County, and I hope we hear more sheriffs in the state speak up. It’s also encouraging to hear the sheriff speak about the discretion he and his officers have in terms of making arrests on specific charges. While it’s not as formal a position as a Second Amendment Sanctuary designation, from a practical standpoint a declaration by Colorado sheriffs they they’ll use their discretion to not enforce any new gun control legislation would be a political shot across the bow at Democrats in Denver eager to use the shootings in Boulder and Colorado Springs to take a bite out of the Second Amendment rights of residents.