DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Conflict over Colorado's proposed red flag bill is boiling over in Douglas County, which is home to the Republican Sheriff who is the face of the legislation.
All three county commissioners voted on Tuesday to join more than a dozen other counties vowing not to enforce the bill if it becomes law.
“We are not declaring ourselves a sanctuary county. We are declaring ourselves a safe, constitutional county,” said Commissioner Abe Laydon during a business meeting that included the vote.
The Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill, as it’s officially known, would allow a judge to order a person’s guns be taken away if they’re deemed a risk. Law enforcement would be responsible for enforcing that law. While Douglas County did not label itself as a “sanctuary county” as others have, the spirit of their resolution is the same.
"We will simply only fund laws that are constitutional,” Laydon told Next with Kyle Clark.
With the resolution’s passage, the board, in essence, voted against their sheriff, Tony Spurlock, who is a lead advocate for the bill.
"I completely disagree with it – I think it was completely premature for them to do a resolution today,” Spurlock said. "That really means nothing. They would be foolish to take money away from the office of the sheriff because I'm enforcing a law. Essentially what they're trying to do is extort me."
Spurlock began pushing for the law after one of his deputies, Zack Parrish, was killed by a man known to law enforcement. The man shot officers from several agencies when they responded to a call at the shooter’s apartment on Dec. 30, 2017.
Spurlock believes a gun control measure like this one could have saved Parrish’s life, but Commissioner Lora Thomas claims the issue might have been solved by seizure statutes already in place.
"If this case had been brought to the attention of our county attorney, our county attorney would have worked with the family, gone to the court with due process and followed the process of the statute that was already on the books,” she said.
Spurlock, though, disagreed with her assessment of the Parrish case, arguing that his department tried to get a judge involved, but there wasn't sufficient statute at the time. He also chided the commissioners, accusing them of speaking out of turn about the Parrish case.
"Those are inexperienced people speaking where they shouldn't be talking,” he said. “Not one of those commissioners - one of them wasn't even elected - two of them were. Quite frankly they're incompetent to make that statement."
As for if the sheriff worries this unanimous vote by his county board might spark a recall effort, he’s unworried.
"I know there's a couple of people who want to recall me. And they have every right to do that. I don't think they'll be successful at all because, quite frankly, that's the very noisy minority that was there today,” he said. "I've been here 39 years, longer than any of those people sitting on that dais, and I know my constituents and I know my citizens they will stand behind me on this."
Spurlock says he wonders if the county will defend him if he got sued for enforcing a law like this. He says he hasn't gotten a clear answer, but he believes it’s the legal obligation of the county. Commissioner Thomas said she's gotten messages from deputies on Facebook, who say they are uncomfortable with the law.
The Douglas County GOP told Next that it passed a resolution of its own over the weekend. That document included a passage mentioning Spurlock that said:
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the DCGOP again condemns HB19-1177, known as the Red Flag Bill, and officially expresses its profound disappointment with Sheriff Tony Spurlock for actions against the Constitution of the United States of America and violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America."
The resolution that county commissioners passed Tuesday does not use that same language.
The Colorado House passed the red flag bill, which now moves to the Senate. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
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