Garrett Wiggins: Gun-control laws concerning



Garrett Wiggins

Due to the vast number of phone calls and emails I have been receiving in the past couple of days, I feel some clarification in regard to the article “Sheriff won’t back gun laws” (Steamboat Today, March 20) is appropriate and necessary.

Twenty-seven years ago, I took my first oath of office and have taken several more since. The oath of office to protect and serve with honor and integrity is something I always have taken very seriously. To eliminate any misunderstandings, I will enforce the laws under my authority and protect and serve all Routt County residents to the best of my ability.

With that said, most of us will agree that something has to be done to curtail the evil and violent incidents our state and country have had to endure such as the Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings. Experts from around the globe agree the issue of violence is multifaceted, and to effectively address our nation’s recurring violence problem, we must evaluate all contributing circumstances, evidence and data.

Our hearts break from all these senseless tragedies, and I cannot begin to comprehend the anguish these parents and families have to endure after the loss of their children and loved ones. I understand the concern we all have regarding violence in our society because I have small children attending public school, and my wife is a public school teacher.

I become more concerned every day as we are torn apart by our political differences resulting in a failure to communicate and accomplish sensible goals on which we all can agree. We must insist that politics be put aside, and we must work diligently together to correct our societal problems.

A comprehensive review of these bills by expert witnesses, including attorneys of criminal and constitutional law as well as law enforcement professionals from across the state, revealed a plethora of serious shortcomings. The poorly structured wording of some of these bills was indicative of the authors having minimal, if any, law enforcement experience or understanding of criminal law. These concerns were articulated clearly during numerous testimonies and were acknowledged by several committee members. Some of the bills were amended but still failed to address all the legal concerns.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado president and several other sheriffs requested numerous times to meet with Gov. John Hickenlooper to discuss the bills’ flaws and the difficulties of enforcing the new laws. CSOC, which represents top law enforcement officials in the state, never was afforded the opportunity to meet with Hickenlooper prior to the signing of these bills.

I feel it is my duty as sheriff to be honest with and informative to the residents of Routt County, even at the risk of my career. I had hoped the article in the Steamboat Today would clearly articulate my stance, but that obviously did not happen. Maybe that is my fault, and if so, I apologize. Hopefully in the near future, these new laws clearly and objectively will be explained as to their constitutionality and enforceability.

I cannot begin to talk about the concerns in this short article, so for individuals who have the desire to learn more about the problems with these new laws, we will be conducting town hall meetings throughout the county. I hope to see you there, and together we can have quality and thoughtful conversations.

Rest assured, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office is doing everything possible to keep our communities safe. Working in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies and our 22 public and private schools, the Sheriff’s Office has developed a School Site Safety Evaluation program. The program consists of Sheriff’s Office volunteers who have experience with threat assessment, construction design and other areas of expertise. The team takes several days to conduct the assessment of the school to address security concerns and then provides a detailed review with school officials. The program is designed to enhance security measures and to keep children and staff as safe as possible. It recently has been deployed and is receiving a lot of attention, appreciation and enthusiasm. In addition, deputies visit our schools as often as possible to ensure a consistent law enforcement presence.

To those questioning my stance, I can assure you that these laws are not subject to an arbitrary or constitutional interpretation on my part but on the impracticality of enforcing a poorly written law. Law enforcement officers, including the sheriff, can be held criminally and civilly liable for taking enforcement action when the officer thought or should have known the action was illegal or a violation of the individual’s civil rights. The constitutionality of these laws is a major concern that has been recorded during testimony by several sitting senators, representatives, constitutional lawyers and law enforcement officers. I hope in the near future, the courts will make a ruling as to the constitutionality of these new laws. Until a ruling is made, the Sheriff’s Office will focus its limited resources in a manner that will best serve our residents.

Garrett Wiggins is the Routt County sheriff.


bill schurman 4 years ago

The Commander is simply a shill for the NRA (or at least their wacky leaders and like-minded counsel) and trying to appease his right wing base here in Routt Country. GOD Forbid that we'll ever have a New Town or Columbine here in this County. THEN, we will be taking about liability of a public servant, who for political gain (as he sees it), fails and refuses to follow duly enacted laws.


Cresean Sterne 4 years ago

Thnks Bill for posting that. As I had mentioned before in this heated debate (IMO)" If you - Will Not - (not) - CANNOT - perform the duties that the Colorado people voted in then you should step down". This is nothing more then hideing behind the federal law or applying a personal agenda. I have always had respect for law inforcment so this is not any kind of personal attack. I also have respect for any officer not performing his duty due to pesonal beliefs. But again, if this is such the case then ANY officer not perfoming the duties asked of them by this great state should respectfully step down. I have to mention that I am quite suprised of the stance by our officers here in Routt county. It seems that some have forgotton what has made this town so great. (IMO) it is not posting a photo of your child holding a millitary style assault rifle on face book or disrespecting the voters wishes. Stmbt was voted nationaly yrs back as the number 1 small town in America for families to raise their kids. This was absolutly incredible and realy helped Stmbt grow in this aspect. I'm sure my comments are going to p** s some people off but Stmbt is known as a family town with family values and one of the best places to raise your kids and I would prefer for it to stay that way.


Scott Wedel 4 years ago

"The constitutionality of these laws is a major concern ..."

Sheriff Wiggins does not claim to have written legal advice from the County Attorney or any other licensed Colorado lawyer regarding the legality of these laws. No, Sheriff Wiggins believes he is enough of a constitutional expert that he can make a legal determination of the constitutionality of these laws.

Sheriff Wiggins should honor his oath of office and resign if he is unwilling to enforce the laws of the State of Colorado. If he is going to maintain that the Routt County Sheriff's dept will refuse to enforce the law that legal private party sales of guns must have background checks and the sale of magazines of more than 15 rounds is illegal then maybe a recall is needed.

Hopefully, the SB City Council will ask their chief law enforcement officer, Joel Rae, if the SB police dept will be able to lawfully enforce these gun laws. And if not, to make sure that is based upon credible legal advice, not merely political opinions.


Scott Wedel 4 years ago

Sheriff Wiggins could have used this letter to explain the legal constraints of enforcing this law and thus what these laws mean to the citizens of Routt County.

He could have said that these laws did not ban any weapons. He could have said that these laws do not make any existing magazines illegal. He could have said that the Sheriff's dept will not be searching door to door because it is not illegal to own anything that was previously legal to own and the 4 Amendment prevents such searches.

He could have said that enforcement will be concerned about sales without background checks and the sales of magazines larger than 15 rounds. He could have said that they will investigate sales to the mentally ill and felons.

But no, he makes it clear that if citizens come up to him and ask him to ignore certain laws that he is agreeable to that.


Mike Isaac 4 years ago

Great job Sheriff I believe that you made the right decision and I also would like to see you never enforce the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act ) or the Patriot Act or assist the FEDS with these Unconstitutional Laws as well. To even try to enforce these new gun laws you would have to turn Routt County into some kind of Authoritarian Stasi Police State.


mark hartless 4 years ago

"The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable."

-Fredrich Bastiat, The Law, 1850

As this society's understanding of the laws rightful (and wrongful) place continues to wane, and as its people continue to rule by temper-tantrum, executive order, and the like, people's respect for the law, which is now probably near an all-time low dating back to at least the Civil War, will only diminish further.

As an example of the hypocricy and double-mindedness of most of the popoulation lets consider a couple examples:

How many of you who are outraged by the Sheriff's refusal to strictly enforce the new gun control laws were just fine with him turning a blind eye to all the pot smoking going on in this county before that law was repealed?

How many of you who think pot still should be illegal currently have beer or whiskey in your home?

I could go on with example after example of the hypocricy and double-standards of the electorate but my point is simple:

Until the electorate gets it's head out of its rear-end and comes to the understanding that REAL FREEDOM is allowing OTHERS to do what you would rather they NOT do, so long as, like Jefferson said "...if it neither breaks my leg or picks my pocket ..." it is NOT your business. True for pot, true for whiskey, and TRUE for guns.

Those of you who refuse to defend ALL of those things know NOTHING of true freedom; and you are foolishly creating a society in which you will soon have neither those parts of it which you defend, nor the parts you currently attack.


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