Before attacking Sheriff Garrett Wiggins’ decision not to enforce the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, everyone should consider the Constitution and the laws.
As a former deputy sheriff, I think Sheriff Wiggins reached the only possible legally correct position in his decision not to enforce the recently passed gun control laws. It is quite likely in the near future that the constitutionality of the high-capacity magazine ban will be decided by the courts, because on its face, the law appears to conflict with the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution overrides any conflicting state or federal law. Knowingly enforcing a law that appears to conflict with the Constitution could subject Routt County, and ultimately its taxpayers, to a civil suit and potential damages.
The sheriff took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the state of Colorado. The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution. Colorado’s statutes concerning the duties of the sheriff require that the sheriff of every county must provide service of civil papers, operate a common jail, investigate felonies and be responsible for fighting wildfires.
The Colorado Constitution and Legislature understood that the resources of the counties to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate offenders are limited and therefore require the sheriff only to investigate felonies, not misdemeanors or petty offenses. Every law enforcement officer has the option of which laws to enforce under specific circumstances. As an example, traffic laws require that every motorist signal before making turns. If an officer observes a driver in a right-turn only lane who doesn’t signal the right turn, the officer may take any of the following actions at his/her discretion based on the totality of the situation: ignore the violation, issue a verbal warning, issue a written warning, issue a ticket or require that the violator post a bond to assure a court appearance.
Our sheriff is performing his statutory duties, and other law enforcement functions performed by a sheriff’s office are at the discretion of the elected sheriff. Violation of the new gun control law on magazine size is a misdemeanor, not a felony, and by statute a sheriff is not required to investigate misdemeanor law violations.