WESTCLIFFE – Will Colorado’s sheriffs enforce the law? That’s a big question at the heart of a new sanctuary movement sweeping across Colorado counties in response to the so-called red flag bill being debated at the State Capitol.
House Bill 1177 creates what’s called an Extreme Risk Protection Order. When the bill was first announced, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock explained that law enforcement officers would be able to remove guns from a person who is believed to be mentally ill and a risk to themselves and others.
“Get them in a place where they can have treatment and they can get help and also, temporarily remove the firearms from their access so it minimized the possibility of a disaster from occurring,” Spurlock said.
As it’s written, the guns are confiscated first. Then there’s a hearing for an individual to ask a judge to give them back.
“That’s completely contrary to the way the justices system is set up,” said Custer County Sheriff Shannon Byerly.
He believes HB-1177 violates constitutional due process rights of Colorado citizens.
“This bill, in my mind as it sets right now, is much more concerning from a due process standpoint than a 2nd Amendment issue,” Byerly said.
So, will he enforce it?
“I want to be as clear as possible, I think it depends,” Byerly said.
He explained that in some circumstances where a person is a threat to themselves and others, he thinks the bill could be effective.
“But I think it has to be measured, it has to be evaluated, you have to be very critical of how you’re going to proceed before you do it.”
Byerly hopes the bill will be amended during the debate in the Senate to address due process concerns.
Custer County Commissioners passed a resolution last week proclaiming their community to be a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County. Byerly interprets that move as the Board saying they will support him if he chooses not to enforce the Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
That idea doesn’t sit well with Pueblo attorney Lee Sternal.
“No sheriff has the right to say they will refuse to enforce the law because they don’t like it.”
He points out that county sheriffs all take an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Colorado. When the cops won’t enforce the law, the citizens may stop obeying it.
“It might give them the opinion that they can do the same in their own minds,” Sternal said. “If they decide they don’t like a law they don’t have to obey it.”
Fremont, Otero, Weld, and Montezuma Counties among others have all passed similar sanctuary resolutions.
Bill 1177 passed the House on Monday by a vote of 38-25 with only Democrats supporting. Representatives Bri Buentello and Don Valdez joined House Republicans in voting against the measure. It has yet to be assigned to a committee in the State Senate.