Colorado’s Growing Second Amendment Sanctuary Movement

Virginia is not the only state where the ‘2A Sanctuary’ movement is taking off

The Delta County Board of County Commissioners’ work session on March 12, 2019, was standing room only.

Nearly 250 residents had packed into the county building in Western Colorado. Every available chair was filled, and attendees lined the wall elbow-to-elbow. To accommodate the unusually large crowd, county staff opened up a second meeting room and dialed up the internal conference line to broadcast what was being said in the main meeting room. Even with that additional space, attendees spilled out into the adjacent hallways—all attempting to jockey for a better position to listen in on deliberations.

The discussion that generated so much attention in this rural community of 30,568 started 275 miles away, in Denver: House Bill 1177 (H.B.1177), passed by the Colorado House of Representatives just 10 days prior. Officially titled “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPO), the bill would codify the seizure of firearms from citizens who are a perceived threat to themselves or others with an ex parte civil order.

Commonly referred to as a “red flag law,” this type of legislation is part of a state-by-state strategy pushed by gun control activists who were galvanized by the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Prior to the Parkland shooting, five states had some sort of red flag law on the books; not including H.B. 1177, there are now 14.

Delta County residents showed up to the hearing because they were deeply concerned about the bill’s constitutionality. When the Delta County forum opened to public comment, resident after resident beseeched the commissioners to stand up in support of their individual rights to bear arms, private property, and due process. Sporting a shirt with the words “I plead the Second” in military stencil accompanied by the profile of an AR-15, one man standing in the hallway shouted “amen” and “yes, sir,” boisterously affirming each petitioner who referenced gun rights. Not one person spoke in support of the bill.

County leadership shared their antipathy toward the legislation. Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor, who was elected sheriff in 2018 and also served as undersheriff for the previous 16 years, was the first to speak. Visibly and audibly nervous, Taylor read a prepared statement that expressed his own opposition to H.B. 1177.

“I feel that that bill goes beyond, there’s no due process as far as enforcing that bill,” Taylor says.

After summarizing his main objections—specifically, that the legislation violates the Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments—Taylor requested that the board of commissioners adopt a resolution that designated Delta County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.” Taylor received a standing ovation from the audience.

What exactly constitutes “sanctuary” status for law enforcement is a point of contention throughout Colorado. Like Delta County, more than half of Colorado counties have adopted resolutions—some more strident, some more symbolic—explicitly challenging H.B.1177 and implicitly suggesting local law enforcement will not comply with the new law. Several sheriffs—predominately from rural Colorado—have publicly expressed their willingness to go to jail if court-ordered to issue an ERPO. Other sheriffs have said it is not their job to pick and choose the laws that they want to enforce.