How Will The Sheriffs’ Gun Lawsuit Impact The Gun Conversation?

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El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa stands with other Colorado sheriffs on May 17, 2013. (credit: CBS)

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa stands with other Colorado sheriffs on May 17, 2013. (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Some people may have thought that when Governor Hickenlooper signed two controversial gun control measures that the State Legislature passed this spring that the gun control conversation was over. However, now that 55 of Colorado’s 64 sheriffs have filed a lawsuit asserting the laws are unconstitutional, it’s clear that the gun conversation in Colorado is far from over.

But while that part is clear, what isn’t clear is how this lawsuit will impact the way we examine the discussion of guns in our state. With a vast majority of sheriffs in Colorado clearly not inclined to enforce these laws, can a counter suit be far behind? I know that sounds odd, but we live in odd times.

As fervent as gun control opponents are, gun control advocates are not exactly wallflowers and are not likely to sit back and see what may happen.

Some gun control advocates have already begun to respond, calling the move shameful and accusing the sheriffs of making a public safety issue into a political one. If there is a legal option to consider, I cannot imagine that will be far behind.

While some may look at this as simply gun control opponents versus advocates, the reality is that it’s a bit murkier than it may seem.

The attacks on either side carry more potential collateral damage than usual gun control debates.

If gun control advocates go after the sheriffs too vigorously, forgetting that beyond plaintiffs, they are also first responders and considered heroes in many scenarios, the attacks can backfire.

At the same time, whether they like to look at it this way or not, the sheriffs are now politically involved and may indeed suffer the political consequences from the move. Those consequences can range from opposition on the ballot, greater scrutiny on unrelated issues or even recalls in some areas.

Finally, we should consider how the average Coloradan looks at this situation. It cannot be easily written off, one way or the other.

It’s impossible to dismiss the impact of 85 percent of the sheriffs in Colorado coming together on a volatile issue like this. But it’s equally impossible to dismiss the legal opinion of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers who came out with his points refuting some of the sheriffs’ main contentions.

Even though we may think that this lawsuit may finally resolve the gun control conversation, that is probably not true either. Between appeals and new issues, the fact of the matter is that gun control will be one of those issues that will remain in the Colorado consciousness for the foreseeable future.

But the lawsuit from the sheriffs’ coalition should indeed write an interesting new chapter to the ongoing conversation.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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