Commercial includes Vail police chief |

Commercial includes Vail police chief

Dominique Taylor/

VAIL, Colorado – The image lasts not much longer than the blink of an eye, but Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger is in a TV commercial, with a three-word message: “I’ve been shot.”

Henninger – who was wounded on the job as a new officer in Garden Grove, Calif., about 30 years ago – is one of several police chiefs from around the U.S. who appear in the latest TV ad from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that lobbies for more, and more strict, gun control laws.

This particular ad pushes the idea of expanding background checks for firearms purchases. Private firearms sales in most of the country are legal without those checks. Colorado expanded its background check requirement this year to cover private sales.

The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, of which Henninger is a member, supported that and other gun-control bills working through the Colorado Legislature this year.

Henninger – who made clear that he was talking on his own time, not the town’s – a believer in better background checks, and believes that the man who shot him those decades ago might not have been able to get a gun if he’d had to pass a background check.

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Henninger believes that background checks won’t do much to inhibit private firearms sales. And, he said, he’d prefer that anyone he sold a gun to would go through a background check.

“That covers me in case anything happens,” he said.

Henninger’s position on the background check law is on the other end of the spectrum from that of Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy, who believes the new law is “unenforceable.”

Hoy and Henninger have known each other a long time, and both men like and respect each other. But their different views on the state’s gun laws illustrate a difference of opinion between the state’s police chiefs and county sheriffs.

While the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police lobbied for the new gun laws, the County Sheriffs of Colorado opposed the bills.

Neither Hoy nor Henninger could offer much besides a guess about the difference of opinion between the two groups. But it’s there.

Hoy guessed that police chiefs may be under different kinds of political pressure, since they work for elected officials. County sheriffs are elected officials, and might not feel that kind of pressure, Hoy said.

“People are pretty much on one side or the other,” Henninger said. “All I know is that I’m working every day to make Vail safer.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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