A land with problems, a nation with laws

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The comments of Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, reported in the Greeley Tribune, are making waves and being picked up in national news. His words put him squarely in an informal group of so-called rogue sheriffs.

According to news reports, Cooke said he is not interested in enforcing two particular bills – one expands background checks on firearms purchases and the other limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. In other reports, El Paso Sheriff Terry Maketa, who takes umbrage with the legislative process and bills being developed for gun control, seems to be part of the club.

Yeehaw. Many of us like to think there is a little bit of frontier left in the culture of Colorado life. Some like to think being on the frontier means having the right to be left the heck alone and not bother with too many laws. But even out West — now and in decades gone by — we expect the guy behind the star to stand with the law, whether right, wrong or otherwise — it’s the law.

That’s why we appreciated the comments of Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who broke his silence on the thorny gun debate and voiced some choice words worth repeating in full.

“For a public safety professional to suggest they can determine the constitutionality of an issue and establish public policy based on that ill-conceived notion, would be tantamount to a police officer arresting an individual, determining guilt and sentencing the individual to incarceration in the county jail,” Robinson said. “This is not how our principle-based, constitutional system, functions. We are a nation of laws.”

Robinson has it right, but in trying to understand the others, we don’t have to look far.

The more than 1,700-word position paper by the County Sheriffs of Colorado opposes limiting magazines — calling for the need to have enough rounds to end a threat — and opposes extending background checks and registration, stating the government “does not have the right to know who owns a firearm or for what reason when used for lawful and peaceful purposes.”

Further the paper strongly states it is not the appropriate time to introduce gun control legislation because decisions likely will be made on “emotion rather than reason” following the recent shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook.

It suggests that gun control bills be tabled for “at least a year to encourage rational deliberations before any decisions are made.”

Given these perspectives, it is easy to see why some sheriffs are riled with the actions at the Statehouse. So we commend all cool-headed sheriffs who know their roles through thick and thin, and perhaps understand that the debate involves tough questions the citizenry and its lawmakers must face involving the constitutional right to bear arms and pressing concerns about gun violence.