Paul Bonnifield: Not a popularity contest
March 21, 2013
My first thought when I read Wednesday's article about Sheriff Garrett Wiggins' stance on enforcing Colorado's new gun laws was that someone needs a reality check.
Consider what would happen if the following should occur:
1) There is a heinous murder.
2) The killer has a long record of gun-related violence. He often is unstable. He publicly has threatened the victim.
3) The murder weapon was purchased in Routt County.
4) The killer chose to purchase the gun in Routt County because he knew Sheriff Wiggins was not enforcing gun legislation.
The crime could be anywhere in the United States. The sheriff and the county soon would be involved in numerous civil and criminal cases. At the very least, it would destroy Wiggins' professional career. Officers closely aligned with him also would have their careers destroyed. The county would have to pay thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
Sheriff Wiggins, it is the courts that interpret laws, administer punishment and rule on constitutionality. Sheriffs have some leeway in setting priorities, but refusing to enforce a law because you don't agree with it is not a priority. All the arguments offered by Wiggins to justify his decision never would be allowed in a courtroom. Using the above example, the only question in the courtroom would be the extent of negligence of duty and the appropriate criminal or civil action to be taken.
Being a sheriff is not a popularity contest. A sheriff is to enforce the law and protect the people — even those laws he or she doesn't agree with. When a law is hard to enforce, law officers must work harder. Sheriff Wiggins, how hard did you work to enforce unenforceable drug laws? If you want to write laws, get elected to the Legislature. If you want to interpret laws, become a judge.