COLORADO SHERIFFS: Sentinel way off track in attacking sheriffs for following and upholding the law

We are not rogue sheriffs as the editorial suggests. Rather we are using the appropriate, constitutionally-granted legal channels to challenge laws that we believe violate the constitution

The May 23 Aurora Sentinel editorial demonstrated a serious disregard for the responsibilities and professionalism of 55 of Colorado’s elected sheriffs who are engaged in a lawsuit with the state over the recently passed gun control bills.

The editorial board is entitled to disagree with the sheriffs, but it is not entitled to its own definition of the designated responsibilities within the separation of powers, nor to blatantly misrepresent sheriffs as not being professional law enforcement officers.

It seems the editorial board’s opinion is that we should agree with and blindly enforce every piece of new legislation without challenge.  Otherwise, we are guilty of “disregarding the separation of powers and taking on the power of the legislature and the courts.” It is precisely our respect for the separation of powers and the Constitution that we are compelled to move forward with a lawsuit in an effort to get a determination of constitutionality from the courts.

As elected sheriffs and the chief law enforcement officers of our respective counties, we have an obligation to challenge potentially unconstitutional laws on behalf of the citizens of the state of Colorado. The very first part of our oath of office is to support the Constitution, and it is our mission to preserve the foundation upon which this republic is built.

Weld County, Colo., Sheriff John Cooke, left, with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, center right, and other sheriffs standing behind him, speaks during a news conference at which he announced that 54 Colorado sheriffs are filing a federal civil lawsuit against two gun control bills passed by the Colorado Legislature, in Denver, Friday, May 17 2013. Among other claims, the group of sheriffs and others joining the suit argue that the laws violate the 2nd and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Weld County, Colo., Sheriff John Cooke, left, with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, center right, and other sheriffs standing behind him, speaks during a news conference at which he announced that 54 Colorado sheriffs are filing a federal civil lawsuit against two gun control bills passed by the Colorado Legislature, in Denver, Friday, May 17 2013. Among other claims, the group of sheriffs and others joining the suit argue that the laws violate the 2nd and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Certainly, this lawsuit is not a popularity contest. It’s not about laws we “like” or dislike. Some of us don’t like the established speed limits, but those speed limits don’t violate the constitution, nor are they unenforceable. We believe these gun control bills are potentially unconstitutional and in many cases, unenforceable.

We have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of our counties. They elect us to establish priorities and use resources wisely. The Sheriffs’ priorities and resources are focused on apprehending murders, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, burglars – the evil element in our society – not the law-abiding citizens whom these bills will impact most.

These bills do little to make Colorado a safer place to live, work, play, and raise a family.  Instead, they will have the opposite effect because they greatly restrict the right of decent, law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, their families, and their homes.

The editorial makes the inaccurate assertion that “what the public knows is that these sheriffs are often not trained cops, but just state residents without felony records who never even had to take any law enforcement training at all…” Actually, they are the elected Sheriffs of Colorado, professional law enforcement executives entrusted with public safety responsibilities.  It’s unfortunate that the board has made an assertion intended to demean those with whom they disagree.

Take time to review the resumes of the 55 elected Sheriffs who signed on to the lawsuit. If the board had done the math, it would have found these Sheriffs have an accumulation of more than 1,000 years of combined law enforcement experience, including Arapahoe County’s Grayson Robinson, Adams County’s Doug Darr, and Dave Stong of Alamosa, all of whom have more than 40 years of professional law enforcement experience each. Most of the Sheriffs have between 20 and 40 years experience, are college-educated, and are graduates of the FBI National Academy and/or the National Sheriffs’ Institute.

The editorial is an example of the conflict and divide that separates us both locally and across the country.  It seems they believe that we should just trust that our legislature got it exactly right and assume that the new statutes are on target.  They ignore the fact that under our Constitution, the Judicial Branch is the authority to determine the constitutionality of issues of law. We can’t get a determination until the issue gets before the courts and the lawsuit is the vehicle to get that done.  If that never happens we will continue to be divided, and the conflict will continue for years to come.

It bothers the sheriffs that the editorial seems to have the opinion that we have no interest in effectively dealing with gun violence in this country and nation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We simply want new laws to be reasonably enforceable and to comply with constitutional standards.  We want to see an effort to effectively deal with people who have serious mental health issues, chronic sobriety issues, and those with a history of violent behavior.  We are not likely to have much success in dealing with issues of gun violence until we make a legitimate effort to keep guns out of the hands of people with those problems.

Honestly, we wish this lawsuit wasn’t necessary, but, we took an oath to defend the Constitution and we take that very seriously.

Doug Darr

Adams County Sheriff

On behalf of the 55 Sheriffs who are plaintiffs in Cooke et al v. Hickenlooper

  • Jason

    Thank you Sheriff Doug Darr.

  • Ian

    Bravo!! You have my thanks and support!

  • Mark Vissering

    Thanks Doug for your article,

    Sorry you have to explain the process to citizens that look
    at all issues thru shaded glasses.

    A business owner operating in Aurora has one choice where to
    spend newspaper advertisement dollars.
    When my fellow agents decided to advertise in the Sentinel I had to make the choice of being a team player. I want to go on record and state I do not
    share the views or opinions of the Editorial Staff. It’s embarrassing that a
    city as large as Aurora can’t do any better than this basis reporting. I can only hope that the good people of
    Aurora can forgive me for supporting the Sentinel.

  • SPQR9

    Given that the Aurora Sentinel in another editorial called for gun owners to be rounded up, the Sheriffs got off lightly from the rather unhinged Sentinel editor.

  • Colorado Publius

    I am thrilled that the Sheriff had the fortitude to write that, and surprised that the worthless rag who’s webpage I’m typing on would print it. That editorial was incredibly worthless, and if it wasn’t for google, I would never know that this worthless paper exists. Pathetic excuse for a newspaper. Your job is to report news, and editorialize, as you wish, based on facts. You and your ignorant editors are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not allowed to make up your own facts.

  • Matt Arnold

    Kudos to Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr for a superbly written and articulate explanation of how the sheriffs’ action (bringing the lawsuit) is not only the best response to the dubiously constitutional legislation, but in the highest standards of honoring their oath of office to ‘support the Constitution’:
    http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/business/PDFFillable/OATH.pdf

  • Matt Arnold

    Colorado has become the national epicenter of the debate on
    ‘gun rights’ (the right of the people to “keep and bear arms“) on political,
    policy, AND constitutional grounds.

    However, the aspect with the most potentially
    far-reaching implications – for Colorado and the nation at large – revolves
    around the constitutional questions on gun rights issues raised by the legal
    challenge raised by 55 of Colorado’s 62 elected Sheriffs challenging the
    permissibility of the most prominent pair of the state’s recently-enacted
    pieces of legislation concerning firearms under the U.S. Constitution.

    The Colorado Sheriffs’ Lawsuit – filed in the
    United States District Court for the State of Colorado (i.e. federal, not
    state, court) challenges the constitutionality of HB13-1224 “Concerning
    Prohibiting Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazines” and HB13-1229 “Background
    Checks for Gun Transfers” as violations of the 2nd and 14th Amendments to the
    United States Constitution.

    Are the recently-enacted statutes likely to
    survive constitutional challenge?

    What are the implications for Colorado and the
    nation?

    Read here for our take:

    http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/2013/06/11/considering-the-constitutionality-of-recently-enacted-colorado-gun-laws-and-the-legal-challenge-led-by-colorado-sheriffs/

  • schotts

    More reaspons to not subscribe to orverly biased media sources. I dumped the Denver Post and you would have to pay me to subscribe to or even read the Aurora Sentinel.

  • Dywlf

    These days it seems the only law is the rule of politics. I thank the Colorado sheriff’s who strive to enforce the constitutional republic’s rule of law. In the end it is all that stands between us and secession, civil war, and chaos. As far as the op-ed, when have we ever heard common sense come from the overpaid poets, gated community with private security guards, frustrated flaming liberal eggheads usually found in the editorial board of liberal newspapers?

  • Jingle

    Wow, didn’t know Sheriff Darr had it in him. For once, I agree with him.

  • Dave

    Thank you Sheriff Darr

  • 2fishandhunt

    Praise you and all of the sheriff’s of Colorado. Also, well said Sheriff Darr, I expect the Sentinel should offer an apology but will probably counter with an ignorant rebuff by a named or unnamed editor.

  • Mom in Aurora

    Thank you, Sheriff Darr! I gave up on the Sentinel as a news source several years ago, due to the editor’s leftist slant. I was stunned and happy to see this published here. Thanks again!

  • Me

    Thank you Sheriff I support you and my Sheriff, Terry Maketa!, and all other sheriffs for standing up for the Constitution!

  • LUV2SKICO

    Thank you Sheriffs of Colorado for putting the snots that run this little fish wrapper of a paper in their place. The true issue here is with the arrogant liberal editorial boards that control the Aurora Sentinel and the Post. Like a bunch of spoiled teenagers, they think that they know so much about so many things that they truly don’t. Certainly they think the 0 years of experience they have fighting crime should carry more weight on the subject of gun control than the 1000 years your group of professionals has.

    They like to pretend that the Colorado Chief’s organization is more in tune with Coloradans on gun control when it doesn’t have the broad statewide membership that the Sheriff’s group has. As political appointees, these chiefs reflect their masters – big city mayors – regardless of what their personal opinions are. I say that with the confidence of being the brother of a police chief of a city with a population similar to that of Aurora, CO. He was not allowed to speak his heart on gun control because it was 100% out-of-sync with the mayor who was a Bloomberg disciple.

    Here is a respected poll of rank and file police officers across the country on gun control for the Sentinel editors to read before they go off on their next pontificating gun control rant.
    http://ddq74coujkv1i.cloudfront.net/p1_gunsurveysummary_2013.pdf

  • Austin

    Thank you Sheriff Darr for articulating your points regarding the dubious constitutionality of these laws. I wish you would consider the constitutionality of denying Adams County residents the ability to obtain Concealed Carry permits. Your online scheduler is routinely 2 months out for an appointment to even get the process started, and appointments are scheduled at inconvenient times for people who work for a living. At the time of my writing, I cannot even schedule an appointment, period. All appointements are booked full for the next three months. This is unacceptable.

  • Norco Lifer

    Sheriffs need to focus on doing their jobs and quit acting like babies about these gun laws….move to Wyoming or Texas!

  • dddfaber

    Last I heard, Sheriffs do not get to decide constitutionality of laws. That’s the job of the Supreme Court – and unfortunately for the Sheriffs, the Supreme Court does not agree with them. In District of Columbia v. Heller (a major Supreme Court decision regarding gun control, the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia), Scalia says ” Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Once again, the Sheriffs do not get to decide the constitutionality of such laws.

    • Rob Robinson

      I am intentionally reposting this, in case you don’t catch my earlier posting of this comment above. Hopefully, you’ll also receive a notification that your comment was replied to.

      I love the way I can’t seem to find a link to the May 23 House Editorial, that this article references. If I didn’t think any better, I’d think that the Aurora Sentinel is intentionally burying it, due to a mass outpour of dissatisfaction with irresponsible and criminal storytelling.

      I don’t give a rat’s fourth point of contact for the “media’s right” to print/air false or exaggerated stories. The media should be held to a higher standard, and currently all they have been doing since 1947, is telling blatant lies, in an attempt to “condition” the thinking of Americans, so corrupt politicians could persuade them to agree to violations of the US Constitution.

      I stand WHOLEHEARTEDLY with the Sheriffs of Colorado who took this stand. And I openly criticize the very few who were too chicken to stand up for the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend.

      And, lastly, for those of you ignorant, uneducated sheeple, who insist that the Sheriff’s have no power to decide the constitutionality of legislation, you are SADLY mistaken, and need to re-educate yourselves as to the duties and responsibilities of Sheriffs. Their position, being the highest elected executive officials in their respective counties, REQUIRES them to challenge the constitutionality of legislation that will affect their constituency, who ultimately use those Sheriffs as their voice. Don’t bother going to any “schools” who will merely lie to you with “Victor Written History”. Instead, learn how to read, for yourselves, and then actually READ the pertinent parts of the Constitution, as well as the Oath of Office that Sheriffs must swear to.

      In the meantime, please continue to express your ignorance, so it can be stamped out with The Truth. The Truth that you have been misled away from.

  • Jacek Jarzabek

    “It seems the editorial board’s opinion is that we should agree with and blindly enforce every piece of new legislation without challenge” – yes! you are NOT a law maker, your job is to enforce ALL laws as enacted by state, local and federal jurisdictions! If you refuse you should be removed from office!

  • Jacek Jarzabek

    If what sheriffs are doing is ok than why do we even have lawmakers? lets go back to the wild, wild west where the sheriff was a law – but thankfully these days are over – Sheriffs are NOT the law and HAVE to upheld all of the laws of the land! Regardless what they think about it – I will use their own favorite quote (the one they love to use when you , the citizen, question the sanity of the law): “well, you can try to have the legislation changed in the state senate – but law is a law – we just enforce it” – so, this is not the case when NRA contacts some Sheriffs? How dare they defy the laws of the land they swore to upheld? Who the F..k they think they are – by doing it all they support is anarchy (anarchy is exactly that – disregard of laws of the land based on personal believes)

    • Art Belmore

      You big dummy! Sheriffs are duly elected by the people!

    • Art Belmore

      The issues were never brought up on the ballots for the people to vote on. Maybe if the representatives voted the way their constituents wanted there wouldn’t have been any recalls! STFU

  • Jacek Jarzabek

    Eric Brown, a spokesman for Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, said, “Particularly on background checks, the numbers show the law is working.” The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has run 3,445 checks on private sales since the law went into effect, he said, and has denied gun sales to 70 people. – so, 70 potential criminals DID NOT obtain the gun – and you say that the law is wrong?

  • Jacek Jarzabek

    nice work sentinel – removing the anti sheriff comments – lol – nice!

  • Tom Johnson

    I think both the editorial and the sheriff’s argument are wrong. I have no problem with the sheriff’s lawsuit and as a gun owner think it has merit on some of the issues which the editorial overlooks. However, the sheriff’s are also wrong. Go ahead with the lawsuit, but unless and until the courts rule to place an injunction on the law, you have a constitutional duty to enforce it until it changes. Otherwise, you too, are a lawbreaker. If you (the sheriff) is not enforcing this particular law, what other laws do you propose to not enforce in your priorities?

  • Larry Drake

    I think you are a disgrace to your profession.

    • JUSTICE QUEEN

      As is the majority of the officersl..

  • JUSTICE QUEEN

    With that double speak you are sure to daze and confuse in your court. Adams county is the worst place to live in the United States. You are not defending the constitution you are riding high on those ponies named power and entitlement. I have seen your drunken dealings and your lack of effort in dealing with the mentally ill. You do have a penchant for pulling your guns and threatening people so I hope your citizens do get to keep their guns. Fight the good fight.

  • Rob Robinson

    I love the way I can’t seem to find a link to the May 23 House Editorial, that this article references. If I didn’t think any better, I’d think that the Aurora Sentinel is intentionally burying it, due to a mass outpour of dissatisfaction with irresponsible and criminal storytelling.

    I don’t give a rat’s fourth point of contact for the “media’s right” to print/air false or exaggerated stories. The media should be held to a higher standard, and currently all they have been doing since 1947, is telling blatant lies, in an attempt to “condition” the thinking of Americans, so corrupt politicians could persuade them to agree to violations of the US Constitution.

    I stand WHOLEHEARTEDLY with the Sheriffs of Colorado who took this stand. And I openly criticize the very few who were too chicken to stand up for the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend.

    And, lastly, for those of you ignorant, uneducated sheeple, who insist that the Sheriff’s have no power to decide the constitutionality of legislation, you are SADLY mistaken, and need to re-educate yourselves as to the duties and responsibilities of Sheriffs. Their position, being the highest elected executive officials in their respective counties, REQUIRES them to challenge the constitutionality of legislation that will affect their constituency, who ultimately use those Sheriffs as their voice. Don’t bother going to any “schools” who will merely lie to you with “Victor Written History”. Instead, learn how to read, for yourselves, and then actually READ the pertinent parts of the Constitution, as well as the Oath of Office that Sheriffs must swear to.

    In the meantime, please continue to express your ignorance, so it can be stamped out with The Truth. The Truth that you have been misled away from.