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County commissioners vote to make El Paso County ‘second amendment preservation county’

Posted at 11:23 AM, Mar 12, 2019

COLORADO SPRINGS – The board of El Paso County commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to support a resolution to designate the county as a “second amendment preservation county.”

The vote comes as a growing number of counties are declaring themselves as “sanctuary counties” for the second amendment as the Colorado legislature debates the “Extreme Risk Protection Order” bill. However, El Paso County’s resolution does not use that language.

That means the county will not “appropriate funds, resources, employees or agencies to initiate unconstitutional seizures in unincorporated El Paso County.” It also said the county will resist the bill “in its current and subsequent forms” and it means the county could pursue legal action against the bill if it is signed into law.

“We have, if you will, the power of the purse in this case, but we also intend on being a part of and possibly leading legal action against the bill should it be passed into law,” explained Commissioner Stan VanderWerf.

The resolution cited previous supreme court decisions as well as the U.S. and Colorado constitution in its language. The resolution said the bill “infringes upon the inalienable rights of the citizens of unincorporated El Paso County.”

The resolution also recommends the best way to prevent gun violence is to address mental health, rather than seizing guns from people deemed to be at-risk.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder and 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May spoke prior to the vote on Tuesday. Both Elder and May criticized the bill and expressed their support for the county’s resolution.

House Bill 1177 creates Extreme Risk Protection Orders which use the state court system to temporarily take away guns from someone believed to be a risk to themselves and others.

The process for gun removal, as described in the legislation, is for a law enforcement officer or a family member to ask a judge for the ERPO. The orders may be requested and granted in what lawyers call an ex parte hearing, meaning the gun owner does not have to be notified.

The temporary order expires after two weeks. The court must schedule a second hearing to determine whether a continuing ERPO is warranted.

Elder previously said the sheriff’s office will not pursue extreme risk protection orders on its own. However, he said if a judge were to grant a protection order to a family member, he couldn’t refuse it.

“The fact of the matter is, we support the rule of law,” Elder said in . “And if a judge issues an order of the court, then it is up to law enforcement to execute that order.”

Colorado’s House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver) recently defended the bill in an interview with News5.

Garnett said the bill does not violate due process and added that the state will provide legal representation to the gun owner for that second hearing and any subsequent hearings. Garnett explained that the police chiefs and sheriffs he worked with in drafting the bill wanted it to be done this way.

“If you give them notice that, hey, we’re going to be coming over in 7 days, all you do is you escalate the danger and you escalate the timeline,” Garnett explained.

Garnett also said law enforcement agencies are the ones who are most likely to apply for the protection orders.

“So, if law enforcement doesn’t believe that somebody is a significant risk to themselves and others, then, for the most part, I highly doubt that these orders are going to come forward.”

The bill is currently assigned to the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee. It has already passed the Colorado House of Representatives.