Spruell reignites state gun debate

Sheriff tells of governor apology

On social media and talk radio, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell has fired off at Gov. John Hickenlooper over remarks he made last week at the Colorado Sheriffs Association in connection to two gun laws passed last year.

On his Facebook page, Spruell posted from the CSA’s biannual conference in Aspen on Friday, June 13, that Hickenlooper apologized for not listening to sheriffs before passing the Democrat-backed gun legislation in 2013. According to Spruell’s post, Hickenlooper also said he failed to research the legislation until after it was passed, and didn’t realize the restrictions would cause such controversy.

By Monday, Spruell had reignited tens of thousands of pro-gun advocates and was the star of a conservative radio program broadcast from Weld County. Some 90,000 people viewed Spruell’s Facebook post, and more than 500 people left comments.

“I think the governor has a lot of explaining to do,” Spruell said Monday on the Amy Oliver Show.

During the interview, Spruell said Hickenlooper repeatedly apologized to sheriffs for his handling of the legislation. Spruell said the governor also told sheriffs that he didn’t know law enforcement wanted to meet with him before passing the legislation.

Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told The Denver Post that Spruell’s Facebook post misquoted Hickenlooper.

Amy Oliver, host of KFKA’s weekday news talk show, is married to Weld County Sheriff John Cooke. Cooke is one of 10 term-limited sheriffs remaining as litigants in a suit against Hickenlooper for signing the 2013 law. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the case this summer.

Eight months after a gunman killed 12 and injured 58 at an Aurora theater, Hickenlooper signed two laws that expanded background checks to private sales and banned magazines with more than 15 rounds.

Fifty-five of Colorado’s 62 elected sheriffs, including Spruell, initially filed suit against Hickenlooper, but a federal judge ruled they didn’t have standing to sue in their official capacity.

The Cortez Journal emailed Spuell seeking comment on several questions. Spruell stated he would only reply by posting on his Facebook page, which he did on Wednesday.

During the radio interview on Monday, Spruell said he opted to post Hickenlooper’s remarks on Facebook, saying his “very liberal” hometown newspaper would never report the story. Spruell declined to cite examples of liberal bias when asked.

“My opinion is The Cortez Journal is biased and liberal in their reporting,” Spruell replied. “I will let the readers decide for themselves.”

Questioned how he would respond to critics that his Facebook post and radio interview were politically motivated, Spruell said his post “was necessary to inform the citizens of Montezuma County.”

“To construe it as a political ploy is something that could be expected from (the Journal),” Spruell said. “As the sheriff, I have an obligation to report to my constituents. Political year or not, I would have posted that information.”

Steve Nowlin, who received the GOP nod from Montezuma County caucus voters this year, is challenging Spruell in his bid for a second term in office. The deadline to cast a ballot in the Republican primary is June 24. Nowlin didn’t respond to an email from the Journal seeking comment.

The Journal also asked Spruell to describe the 2013 gun laws from his perspective. He offered a recap of the meeting with the governor instead.

The Journal also requested if Spruell could identify “sensible or reasonable gun restrictions that could be passed without infringing on the Second Amendment.”

“If I hear of a law that will benefit the citizens without infringing on the Second Amendment, I would be open-minded; however, the Second Amendment is pretty clear,” he said. “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”