Weld County Colo. Sheriff John Cooke
New gun control laws are unconstitutional, say scores of sheriffs throughout the country, and they are either refusing to enforce the statutes or have signaled that enforcement will be a very low priority, The New York Times reports.
In Colorado, a law passed by the Legislature that requires universal background checks and bans ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds is being challenged in a lawsuit by all but seven of the state’s 62 elected sheriffs who say it’s a violation of Second Amendment rights.
New laws in other states which were brought about as a result of the Newtown, Conn. school shootings, are also facing resistance, the Times reported Sunday.
In New York, two sheriffs have said publicly they would not enforce new gun laws, some of the toughest in the nation. In California, a delegation of sheriffs tried to convince Gov. Jerry Brown to veto gun bills that would ban semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and lead ammunition for hunting, according to the Times.
“All law enforcement agencies consider the community standards — what is it that our community wishes us to focus on — and I can tell you our community is not worried one whit about background checks or high-capacity magazines,” Sheriff W. Pete Palmer of Chaffee County, Colo., told the Times.
Nevertheless, in Colorado, officials argue the laws are already having an effect. They point to figures that show, of the 3,445 background checks on private gun sales since the law went into effect on July 1, 70 people were denied weapons.
“Particularly on background checks, the numbers show the law is working,” Eric Brown, a spokesman for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, told the Times.
Police chiefs in the state, particularly in urban areas, agree that the new laws are making an impact, saying most gun stores have stopped selling high-capacity magazines for personal use, though some continue to do so illegally.
Law enforcement officials, however, acknowledge that sheriffs have wide discretion in enforcing state laws. And while sheriffs could be removed for refusing to enforce state statutes, one expert suggests that many governors could be reluctant to use such powers.
“In my oath it says I’ll uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Colorado,” Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County told the Times. “It doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.”
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