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Fremont commissioners declare Sanctuary County for gun owners

FREMONT COUNTY – Republican county commissioners in Southern Colorado appear to be taking a page from the playbook of big-city Democrats by declaring themselves a Sanctuary County that will not enforce the law. Instead of protecting illegal immigrants from deportation, the Fremont County Commissioners say they’re protecting gun owners from what they see as unconstitutional state laws.

The board passed a resolution Tuesday on a 3-0 vote declaring Fremont County to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. The decree states that the County Sheriff can use his discretion, “to not enforce any unconstitutional firearms law against any citizen. ”

County Commissioner Dwayne McFall explained that the use of the word sanctuary is intentional.

“If the illegal immigrant is safe in a sanctuary city, then a Second Amendment gun owner would be safe in a sanctuary county to exercise his right to bear arms,” McFall said.

Sheriff Allen Cooper told News 5 he doesn’t personally believe Colorado’s Red Flag bill, House Bill 1177, is constitutional.

“If you read in the strictest definition the second amendment, it says that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Cooper said. “That is pretty specific language.”

However, he also doubts the resolution gives him legal protection to not enforce the bill if it becomes law.

“It’s really symbolic, more than anything else, to let the citizen of the county know where their governing body stands,” Cooper said.

He too opposes the legislation, calling it an unfunded mandate and citing concerns over how quickly a gun owner can have his case heard before a judge. Cooper points out that any juvenile defendants arrested for a crime must appear before a judge in Colorado within 72 hours. He thinks the same urgency should be applied when removing the property of citizens.   House Bill 1177 sets a deadline of two weeks for a gun owner to have his or her case heard.

The bill is sponsored by Democrat Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial. He lost his son Alex in the Aurora Theater Shooting in 2012.  The legislation creates what are called Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The idea is similar to a restraining order. Law enforcement officers or family members can petition the court to temporarily remove the guns from someone they believe to be a danger to themselves and others.

Commissioner McFall points out that current state law already allows for law enforcement to detain someone for up 72 hours on a mental health hold. He believes Bill 1177 ignores constitutional due process protections.

“I think what it is is making a statement to the legislature that they need listen to the entire State of Colorado and not just the metro areas because it’s a totally different animal out here in rural Colorado.”

Bill 1177 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday on a 7-4 party line vote. It will have another hearing Thursday at 8:00 a.m. in the House Appropriations Committee.

Andy Koen

Andy Koen

Andy is a reporter and anchor for KOAA-TV News 5. He joined the team in 2003.
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