Reid Tulley

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June 14, 2013
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Grand County Sheriff: New gun laws 'not at top of priority list'

More than 100 people showed up at the Granby Community Center on Tuesday for a meeting concerning the new gun laws that will go into effect early July. Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson and District Attorney Brett Barkey gave a short presentation highlighting some of the major changes to current gun laws that will take place when the new laws go into effect and answered questions about the new laws.

C&M Guns in Hot Sulphur Springs and the High Country conservatives sponsored the meeting, which highlighted the new laws concerning a ban of high-capacity magazines and changes to background checks for gun buyers and sellers.

The law banning high capacity magazines outlaws the purchase or sale of high capacity magazines in Colorado after the law goes into effect. Though citizens who already posses these magazines are allowed to continue to posses them.

The law expanding background checks will require private gun sellers to complete a background check on prospective buyers before completing a private transfer of a firearm.

The laws were passed through the legislature in response to mass shootings that took place around the country in recent years.

Citizens and law enforcement officials alike question the enforceability of the laws. Johnson is participating in a lawsuit comprised of over 75 sheriffs, organizations, and individuals that seeks to stop these new gun laws from going into effect.

The plaintiffs involved with the suit recently filed for an injunction to try to expedite the process and to stop the laws form taking effect in early July.

If the suit failed and laws did go into effect, the Sheriff and District Attorney commented that they would be charged with enforcing the laws through their positions.

“We don’t get to choose what laws we enforce,” Barkey said.

Other sheriffs in the state have vowed not to enforce the new laws, however the Grand County Sheriff is cautious in making the statement not to fulfill his duty to uphold Colorado law.

“I didn’t say it was at the top of my priority list,” Johnson said. “But I’m not going to say I am not going to enforce the laws.”

One area of conversation that seemed to permeate the discussion was how law enforcement would be able to prove whether a high capacity magazine had been owned by someone before the law went into effect or not.

The answer provided by the DA and Sheriff focused on the burden of proof falling on the prosecuting entity, meaning if a law enforcement official wanted to charge someone with buying or selling a high capacity magazine after the law went into effect, it would be their responsibility to prove you broke the law. Another factor surrounding the law is that someone is assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Proving someone purchased or sold a magazine after the law went into effect would be a difficult task, according to the DA and Sheriff, and would require finding and sorting through sales receipts and other documents of that nature.

“We are going to give the benefit of the doubt to the citizen,” Johnson said.

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

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The Sky-Hi News Updated Jun 18, 2013 04:26PM Published Jun 14, 2013 03:17PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.