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Colorado sheriffs sue over gun control laws

Federal lawsuit filed Friday in Denver

Colorado Sheriffs File Lawsuit in Denver

DENVER - As expected Friday, attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of 54 of 62 Colorado sheriffs opposing two new gun control laws scheduled to take effect this summer.

Terry Maketa of El Paso County, David Weaver of Douglas County and Jim Beiker of Fremont County were among 18 sheriffs joining attorneys for a morning news conference at the Independence Institute, a public policy research firm.

"So the case has now commenced," said attorney David Kopel, followed by applause.

The new laws, passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, limit the capacity of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and expand background-check requirements for private gun purchases.  The laws take effect July 1.

Sheriffs said the laws may have been intended to make acquiring guns more difficult for criminals, but are so restrictive that they also unfairly punish law-abiding gun owners.

"It means a husband going out of town can't leave a gun for his wife without a background check," said Maketa.  "A rancher can't loan his gun to a neighbor.  At first, I saw (lawmakers') effort as really misinformed and trying to do the right thing.  But as time went on, I think it was a calculated effort driven by outside interests on the East Coast."

Sherrifs said filing the lawsuit is an unfortunate but necessary step to protect the rights of gun owners.

"It's a combination of a lot of different emotions," said Weaver.  "It's a sad day that we've come to sue our own state.  But (the laws) need a little more thought."

Beiker agreed.

"It's very divisive for our communities and our state," he said.  "Even though our constituents may disagree with us, we believe we're standing up for their rights."

When asked if the sheriffs are playing politics by filing the lawsuit, John Cooke of Weld County said, "We believe the Legislature and the gun control advocates are the ones doing that.  We're standing up for our constituents and the Constitution."

Maketa, responding to a question about whether he attended the event on his own time or the county's, said he was paid just as he would if he conducted official business after hours and on weekends. 

"I'm representing the voices of the 82 percent of our population who voted for me," he said.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has 30 days to review the sheriffs' complaint.  Kopel said the plaintiffs are considering asking a judge to grant a preliminary injunction, which would stop the laws from taking effect in July.

Whichever side loses in the case likely will file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Kopel said.

To read the entire complaint, visit http://www.i2i.org/files/file/54-sheriffs-complaint.pdf

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