If numerous standing ovations and prolonged applause were any indication, El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton and Sheriff Terry Maketa's town hall meeting was a real crowd pleaser.
The two spoke on the state General Assembly's pending gun laws to a packed house on March 14 in the Commissioners Hearing Room in Centennial Hall. Littleton introduced the subject by reading the county commissioners' “Resolution in Defense of 2nd Amendment Rights,” which was approved on Jan. 22.
“I know I'm preaching to the choir here,” she said. “From your response I have to say this might just be the safest room in all of El Paso County.”
Maketa then went through the pending legislation bill-by-bill, giving his interpretation on what each might mean to citizens and law enforcement agencies if passed. “Some of them are so poorly written that I don't know what they're trying to say,” he said, adding later in the meeting that the laws are written in ways that will be almost impossible to enforce.
In order by house and senate numbers, the pending bills include:
HB 13-1224: Prohibiting possession and use of large-capacity ammunition magazines and would limit magazines to 15 or fewer rounds. Colorado manufacturers would have to date stamp and add a serial number to all large-capacity magazines manufactured after July 1.
Maketa said that if the idea behind this law is to save lives, it's a big lie. “Who will comply with this? Law abiding citizens!” he said, to which an audience member shouted, “No we won't!”
This law doesn't apply to local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, to people serving in the military or to people who bought the ammunition before July 1, 2013. Maketa said if he sees people with large-capacity magazines, he will just assume they bought them before July.
HB 13-1228: Sets the payment for background checks to actual costs. The fee will be paid by the person purchasing the weapon.
HB 13-1229: Requires universal background checks before weapons can be transferred either by sale through a licensed dealer or by sale or gift between private parties. Maketa said he considers this law to be unconstitutional but at very least it violates private property rights and criminalizes law-abiding citizens. “Criminals won't worry about background checks,” he said.
SB 13-195: Requires, for the purpose of obtaining a concealed weapon permit, that gun-safety training would have to take place in a physical location rather than online. Maketa gave this bill only a cursory mention.
SB 13-197: Requires people served with protection orders to prevent domestic violence to turn over any weapons they own.
“They used a bizarre kind of logic with this one,” Maketa said. “The protection order keeps them from going home but this law says they have to go home to get their weapons so they can turn them over to a designated third party.”
However, the bill's most recent amended version (as of March 14) states that it “shall require the person to relinquish any firearm or ammunition in the person's immediate possession or control or subject to the person's immediate possession or control (italics added).”
The following related bills are still in committee and weren't mentioned at the town hall meeting:
HB 13-1085: Amends the list of felonies that make it possible for previous offenders to possess firearms. Currently no convicted felons are allowed to possess firearms but this new bill would prohibit the possession of firearms by a previous offender to those who have been convicted to certain violent crimes.
HB 13-1169: Allows persons to satisfy federal and state background check requirements by presenting a valid concealed-carry permit.
If any of these pending gun bills pass, and some of them already have or are close to passage, Gov. John Hickenlooper has vowed to sign them.
Maketa said the governor has also vowed to keep an open mind. This statement was greeted with jeers and shouts of “Marxist!” and other epithets.
“You need to know that the `Dems' aren't listening,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen, who also attended. “You need to contact the governor and ask him to take the ink out of his pen.”
Commissioner Dennis Hisey sat with Lathen in front of the crowd and later made a statement on the proceedings while Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger sat in the audience giving Maketa his support.
After presenting the bills, the rest of the meeting was a question and answer session with Littleton reading questions submitted by audience members and Maketa answering. At one point he made it clear that if these laws are passed by the legislature and signed by the governor he would be obligated to enforce them until they are declared unconstitutional or are repealed.
“I will never compromise the Board of County Commissioners,” he said. “If the court orders me to seize weapons and I don't and someone dies I would be putting the board in a position of liability.”
That said, however, he added that he will do everything in his power to protect each citizen's Second Amendment right to possess and bear arms.
“I need to speak up for what's right,” Maketa said. “We need to hold our legislators accountable where what they do. … Remember that on election day.”
He added that once the laws are signed, they go to the state attorney general's office for interpretation. “At that time I hope we can get some court action going,” he said.
Littleton said citizens will be able to view the entire meeting on YouTube through a link at the El Paso County website, www.elpasoco.com. Also available at the site on the sheriff's webpage are several articles by Maketa describing his attempt to testify against these bills at the state capital and other related subjects.
For current bill language and history, visit www.colorado.gov and choose “Search for Legislative Bills.”