Sherry Aitken: Respect the rule of law
March 21, 2013
I read with interest Steamboat Today's front-page story on our local sheriff's reaction to new state gun laws. I then went to the Steamboat Today website and read posted story comments, including Sheriff Garrett Wiggins' post. I also read his "Gun Control" position statement on the Routt County website.
In the paper's story, Wiggins and Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said every email, phone call and comment they have heard is from residents who oppose gun control. The original statement wasn't in quotes, so I do not know if "every" was the word the sheriffs used, but with even the implication, I felt I must speak up.
I live in South Routt and I own guns, but I am not writing to debate the new gun "control" laws' constitutionality or practical enforcement or even effectiveness, though I easily could. With respect, I'm asking Sheriff Wiggins to enforce the laws of this state in a professional and impartial manner. I honor his right as a private citizen to his opinion and as a law enforcement officer to testify on bills with regards to their potential efficacy and enforcement. But that part of the debate is done now, and I think it is inappropriate for Sheriff Wiggins to continue using his position for a personal interpretational-based agenda. As much as he and many of his constituents may disagree, these now are Colorado laws. I personally do not look to the Routt County sheriff to uphold my constitutional rights. I do look to the Sheriff's Office to protect and serve, which according to the Routt County website includes law enforcement, investigations and detentions. Let me repeat that: law enforcement.
Not all Colorado sheriffs share the position of Wiggins and Jantz. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson (whose office responded to the Aurora theater shooting) said, "Public safety officials serving in the executive branch do not have constitutional authority, responsibility, and in most cases, the credentials to determine the constitutionality of any issue. … We all have an obligation to our families, neighbors, our community and our country to be engaged and to demand that well-considered, meaningful and sustainable solutions to these senseless acts of violence are implemented in a timely manner."
I ask that Sheriff Wiggins respect the rule of law. If he cannot in good conscience do that, then I think the people of Routt County respectfully can accept his resignation as an appropriate expression of his protest. Picking and choosing which laws to abide by and enforce should not be an option for an elected public safety officer. The loophole of course will be "prioritizing," but each will have to look to his own integrity on that issue, as you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or maybe you can. I'm answering my conscience on this issue even if, according to the sheriffs, I am very lonely.