UPDATE: This story has been changed to include information on the following:
March 4 — The Board of Weld County Commissioners will take public comment and vote on a resolution to declare Weld a Second Amendment Sanctuary County at its next regular meeting, at 9 a.m., Wednesday at 1150 0 St. in Greeley, following a work session on the topic. Weld Commissioner Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer sent a copy of the resolution to Complete Colorado and said she said she plans to vote in support of the resolution.
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Kirkmeyer’s vote along with commissioners Sean Conway and Scott James, who have both said they will support it, will give it the votes needed to pass. It is expected that commissioners Mike Freeman and Steve Moreno will also vote yes. Conway said he doesn’t understand how legislators can ignore the fact that organizations, sheriffs and attorney on both sides of the gun debate all believe this bill is unconstitutional, and he will not put himself in a position that has the county in direct conflict that.
“When I took my oath of office, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Conway said. “This bill clearly (from a lot of varied perspectives) is unconstitutional. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and that’s what I’m going to do (Wednesday).”
James agreed. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I believe 1177 is unconstitutional. This is not a piece of legislation that deals with mental health. It’s a gun confiscation bill and weakens the rights protected by the second amendment.”
March 3 — Complete Colorado contacted Weld Senators John Cooke, Vicki Marble and Jerry Sonnenberg and asked if they would sign a similar request. All three said yes. Cooke said he has already spoken to Weld Sheriff Steve Reams and Commissioner Sean Conway and asked them to make Weld a sanctuary county. Sonnenberg said he would like to see and would support all 11 counties he represents becoming sanctuary counties. Marble said she would support the effort as well, but would also like to see someone resurrect the effort of a few years ago for Weld to either secede from Colorado and become it’s own state or to annex into Wyoming.
March 2 — Weld County Representatives Lori Saine, Perry Buck and Steve Humphrey sent a letter to the Board of Weld County Commissioners urging them to make Weld County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. In the letter, they say: “With the introduction and probably passage of HB 1177 … the state of Colorado will have violated the Constitution of the United States that lawmakers have sworn to uphold. … It allows the possibility that women and children could be left defenseless if an ex spouse or domestic partner were to use an extreme risk protection order to gain an advantage. … We request a resolution be signed … ensuring as far as your local authority extends, the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land in Weld County and that we are declared a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
March 1, 10:15 a.m. — Custer County became the second county to officially become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” The board unanimously approved a resolution on Feb. 28 that clearly states it will not enforce the Red Flag law should it pass. The resolution says in part: “the members of this Board took an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, and the laws of the State of Colorado insofar as such laws are constitutional; and WHEREAS, it is the unanimous opinion of this Board that House Bill 19-1177, as presently drafted and proposed, represents a clear violation of the constitutional principles reflected above and that such proposed legislation, if passed, should not be enforced in Custer County until such time as its constitutionality is ruled upon by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Feb. 28, 10:30 a.m. — Douglas County is investigating a similar resolution. More information to follow.
GREELEY — The Weld County Board of Commissioners (Weld BOCC) may soon join Fremont County in what some are calling a move to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” county.
The idea is in response to House Bill 19-1177 “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” also known as the Red Flag bill, which would allow a court to order the local sheriff’s office to remove guns from any one deemed a risk to themself or others.
The bill was first introduced last year with support from then Republican Attorney General candidate George Brauchler as well as Republican Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. It died in the then Republican-majority Senate.
This year, however, it’s expected to pass. Although Spurlock is still one of the bill’s biggest supporters, Brauchler has pulled his support, telling Complete Colorado that the new version is much more dangerous than last year’s model.
“This is a bill that is about guns, and not about mental health,” Brauchler said. “They could have attacked the mental health side and the problems with it. And they didn’t.”
The bill has sparked emotion on both sides of the aisle, but Fremont County Commissioners decided to take it one step further earlier this week, passing a resolution that says “the county won’t authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing law that unconstitutionally infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Montezuma Commissioner Keenan Ertel, who supports his county’s resolution, said this is “about our disagreement with what the state legislature is about to put on us,” in a quote that appeared in The Journal. “This House bill if passed in the form it is in, will be a conflict to state and federal constitutional rights. It is an opportunity for us to stand our ground on constitutional beliefs.”
Weld BOCC Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer told Complete Colorado that she has scheduled a work session with the board and Weld Sheriff Steve Reams for 8 a.m. on March 6 at the county offices, 1150 O St. in Greeley, to discuss the idea. Kirkmeyer, Commissioner Steve Moreno and Commissioner Sean Conway are all in Washington D.C. until Tuesday for the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference, she said, so it could not be addressed sooner.
“I am getting a copy of the resolutions passed by Fremont County and contemplated by Montezuma,” Kirkmeyer said about preparation for the work session.
Complete Colorado also reached out to other predominately conservative Douglas, El Paso and Mesa counties.
Rose Pugliese, chairwoman of the Mesa County Board of Commissioners, said her board passed a comprehensive resolution in 2013 supporting the Second Amendment. She too is in Washington for the NACo conference but plans to talk her board when she returns about whether to re-affirm its current Resolution or draft another, she said.
Lora Thomas, chairwoman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, said she is also researching the idea and that several of her constituents have reached out to her. She has asked Douglas County staff to get information from Fremont and Montezuma so she can better understand what has been done.
Complete Colorado will update the story as necessary.
Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams has been an outspoken opponent to both versions of the bill.
“The last bill was awful,” Reams said. “but this is worse.”
Reams said the fact a judge can hold what amounts to an ex-parte hearing and order someone’s weapons taken away without that person having an opportunity to defend themselves is not what this country is about.
He is also frustrated by the fact that the order to confiscate only requires a “preponderance of the evidence” finding, but to get the guns back requires a higher level of evidence.
“That requires clear and convincing evidence,” Reams said. “Even in the clearest of cases the evidence burden should be the same. But if this current bill passes they not only have to prove they are innocent but competent as well. That is not the way our legal system was designed. That is just crazy.”
Reams said he also worries about the safety of officers who may find themselves in compromised situations because there is no requirement that law enforcement be notified why the guns are being revoked.
“We don’t do no-knock warrants in Weld, but there will be some agencies that will,” Reams said. “They can make this request directly to the court without law enforcement present, and all we know is they’ve deemed this person at risk. We don’t know why. It’s a very volatile situation. In some cases, officers may be going in completely blind.”
He agreed with Brauchler’s assessment that this bill does nothing to solve the mental health aspect, which is what the bill is supposed to address, Reams said.
“There is so much left to question,” Reams said. “This doesn’t put law enforcement in better situation, this doesn’t put the person in need in a better situation, and this doesn’t put the community in a better position. It doesn’t even say anything about getting the person the mental health help that they may need. It doesn’t address mental health at all.”
The County Sheriffs of Colorado (CSOC) association has taken a neutral stance on the bill because it is still going through the process and may face many more amendments, Reams said, adding he has spoken to Spurlock, who he called a close friend, almost daily for the past week trying to come to an agreement on what could work, but he just doesn’t see the current bill getting closer to anything he could support.
He is supportive of the Weld BOCC passing the resolution letting voters know that Weld County supports the Second Amendment. He’s still researching what the legality of enforcing or not enforcing the bill will be on his office, but he thinks having the commissioners making it official will help him with an argument to not enforce it.
“I just need to know what my options are for complying but not violating someone’s rights in the process,” Reams said. “But (a resolution) would add to the argument for me to say this isn’t supported by my community. There are a lot of questions at this point, far more questions than answers.”