About 75 people, including several deputies and Teller County Posse volunteers, gathered at Woodland Park City Hall on March 25 when Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger launched a series of town hall meetings.
“I want to show you where I'm coming from,” he said. “I and the 63 other county sheriffs in Colorado took an oath to defend the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.”
He then repeated that oath.
“I am a man of faith and I take my oath seriously,” he said. “I represent my constituents, the citizens of Teller County, and I take that seriously, too.”
These town hall meetings are designed to cover Colorado's new gun control laws but, before taking up each law by number, Ensminger read off a series of statistics to show that guns are not the real problem.
“We have a warped focus,” he said. “The number one cause of death for children (nationwide) is child abuse. …In 2010, we lost five children a day. …In 2009 we lost more than 37,485 people to drug overdoses. Where is our focus?”
He also listed the top 10 causes of adult death in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said that guns were nowhere on that list. However, also according to the CDC, the No. 10 cause of death, suicide, is more likely to involve firearms than all other suicide methods combined.
“I am not an expert on these laws and I am not an expert at interpreting the constitution,” Ensminger said, to which someone in the audience shouted, “Neither are they (Colorado's lawmakers).”
Ensminger added: “I will not break any laws but I will stand for the voice we have in Teller County.”
The first law he covered was Senate Bill 13-195, which doesn't allow people seeking concealed handgun permits to get their firearms-safety certification over the Internet.
“I support this bill,” Ensminger said. “No firearms safety certificate off the Internet has ever been accepted in my office.”
SB 13-197 says the courts shall confiscate firearms from anyone served with a protection order that prohibits firearms or is convicted for domestic violence.
“I don't think anyone who has committed domestic violence should have access to firearms,” he said. “But 197 takes an eggbeater to the process. By using the word `shall' now we're telling judges what to do! Good God almighty how is that going to be enforced? I don't have enough room to house firearms with the facilities we have.”
He also doesn't think House Bill 13-1224, which prohibits the possession of large capacity ammunition magazines, will be enforceable.
“How will I know when the person bought that magazine?” he asked. “The law states that any large capacity magazines manufactured after it goes into effect must be stamped with a date and serial number. Does that mean it's legal to own if it's stamped?”
HB 13-1228 makes the person buying the firearm pay for the background check.
“I have no clue how much that's going to cost,” he said.
HB 13-1229 requires a background check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation before the ownership of a firearm can be transferred to another person.
“It takes the CBI two months to perform a background check for a concealed carry permit,” Ensminger said. “If you want to buy a hunting rifle you'll need to start planning two to four seasons down the road.”
During the question and answer portion of the meeting someone asked if law enforcement officers are being trained to confiscate weapons.
“Hey, it isn't like they don't already teach us that,” Ensminger answered. “And I am in favor of confiscating weapons from people who are a danger to themselves and others and from convicted felons.”
He added that law enforcement officers should have wider parameters for getting dangerous people the mental health help they need.
“Right now we have to prove people are dangerous before we can send them to be evaluated,” he said. “We're not doctors and, even when we're able to send people in for a mental health evaluation, they can leave after 72 hours. That's not nearly enough time to diagnose a mental illness, come up with a treatment and then see if it works.”
One question gave him pause, should it be possible for those convicted of non-violent felonies to earn back their Second Amendment right to possess and bear arms?
“Give me some time to think about that,” Ensminger said. “I believe in the good in people and that people can change. That was a great question.
He ended the meeting by saying that he will not resist these regulations if they are signed into law but that best way to fight them legally.
“The only way to change the laws is make your voice heard,” he said. “Public outcry is the biggest motivating factor in politics today. Go about this the right way and down the road you will see change. We need God-fearing conservatives to take a stand for Colorado. That's my opinion and I am using my First Amendment rights to say it.”
Ensminger's next round of town hall meetings will be at 5 p.m. on June 24 at the Woodland Park City Hall, June 25 at the Victor City Hall and July 31 at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.