Arapahoe County sheriff criticizes colleagues for threats to ignore gun laws

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Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson (Photo: Arapahoe County)

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson (Photo: Arapahoe County)

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Several Colorado sheriffs have issued veiled statements in the past week suggesting they may not enforce new gun legislation if they don’t believe it will curtail gun violence. Now, the sheriff in Arapahoe County, which sees more gun violence than any county in the state save one, is criticizing the rhetoric of those colleagues.

Larimer County’s Justin Smith and Garfield County’s Lou Vallario are among the sheriffs who have hinted that they may have problems enforcing any proposed new gun legislation that they feel is not constitutional.

In a statement entitled “Just the Facts! Defending the Second Amendment” that he released on Wednesday, Vallario quoted a portion of the Second Amendment that reads: “The right to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

“That last phrase, carefully crafted by the Founding Fathers, makes this right absolute,” Vallario wrote. “Nothing further should be discussed. No compromise should be considered.” 

Last week, Smith took to Facebook and said he would “not enforce unconstitutional federal laws, obey unconstitutional laws or allow others to violate the constitutional rights of those in my county.”

Any push by the federal government to require universal background checks on gun sales would fall into the category of unconstitutional, Smith wrote in the Facebook post. He later backed off that rhetoric in an interview with the Coloradoan.

In a written statement released Tuesday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said neither he, Vallario nor Smith have “the constitutional authority, responsibility, and in most cases, the credentials to determine the constitutionality of any issue.”

While he didn’t name the sheriffs specifically, Robinson called the arguments put forth by both Vallario and Smith misguided.

“The rhetoric of a few related to these significant constitutional issues has been interpreted by many who believe that a person in a position of authority might be able to determine the constitutionality of an issue,” Robinson said.

Robinson went on to state that such an interpretation is not only false but unconstitutional in its own right.

“If an issue were to be arbitrarily deemed ‘unconstitutional,’ the decision to curtail further enforcement responsibilities would be in direct conflict with the concept of the balance of powers, as defined by our founders,” Robinson said. “The authority to determine the legality and/or constitutionality of a matter is to be accomplished by the judicial branch, as clearly defined in the Constitution.”

That doesn’t mean Robinson opposes the Second Amendment.

But after calling himself a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms, Robinson called the new gun control discussions that have emerged in the wake of several mass shootings “justified” and “significant.”

He continued to say that all of the state’s sheriffs “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.”

That statement comes from a sheriff whose deputies were among the first to respond to the Aurora theater shooting that saw 12 killed and 58 injured in July.

Robinson knows a thing or two about gun violence beyond the Aurora theater shooting, too. The only county in Colorado that sees gun-related homicides more often than Arapahoe is Denver.

In addition to the discussion about new gun control legislation, Robinson believes lawmakers should also begin to discuss potential solutions to the problems of mental health and gang-related violence.

“Mental illness continues to be the one element that consistently receives the least amount of intervention or prevention efforts,” Robinson said. “And the issue of gang-involved violence fails to receive consideration or acknowledgement from public officials, the general public and the media.”