Montezuma County Sheriff says he will not enforce new gun laws

With the stroke of a pen, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week signed three controversial gun bills into Colorado law, instantly drawing criticism from law enforcement officials.

Just as quick as that pen stroke, numerous sheriffs throughout the state have vowed to not enforce the new laws.

Among those law enforcement officers opposing the new laws is Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell.

Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane said he was reserving comment until he could look at the bills more thoroughly.

The County Sheriff's of Colorado Association released a five-page letter in January denouncing the proposed new gun laws.

The governor signed bills to require background checks for private gun sales, ban the sale of new ammunition magazines greater than 15 rounds and require gun buyers to pay for their own background checks.

Spruell was clear about his view of the new laws.

"We will not enforce it," Spruell said. "It is unenforceable. I have discretion on what laws to uphold."

On Wednesday, Spruell attended a sheriff's office association meeting where there were two in-depth classes that featured this issue.

Spruell said as sheriff he feels he needs to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.

A number of sheriffs across the state, including Spruell, are considering filing a lawsuit to override the new laws, especially the one that will ban the sale of new ammunition magazines greater than 15 rounds, which is vehemently opposed by the association.

"When seconds matter, county sheriffs of Colorado do not want to deny a law abiding citizen the ability to defend himself and his family based on an arbitrary limit on how many bullets should be in one magazine clip," the letter reads.

The sheriff said it makes no sense to require a background check for individuals selling guns, and added that it is ludicrous for a person having to do this if he or she wants to sell or give a gun to a son or daughter.

Spruell said no one knows what would happen when or if a gun is confiscated by authorities.

"I can't enforce an unenforceable law," he said.

He said it's disconcerting that the Legislature did not pay attention to pleas from police agencies throughout the state.

"We were saddened they didn't listen to us," he said. "If you are not listening to law enforcement who are you going to listen to. This is a direct violation of the Second Amendment."

Spruell also called it a moral issue and a knee-jerk reaction to some horrific crimes.

As an analogy Spruell pointed to buses that carry mass amounts of people, mentioning there is no discussion about banning these "high-capacity vehicles" everytime there is a crash.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com