Why I’m not joining lawsuit

Much has been made of the Colorado sheriffs’ lawsuit against gun legislation in Colorado.

Out of the 64 sheriffs in the state, eight have refrained from participating in the lawsuit. This should not be interpreted as a division within the state association, as we are all strong supporters of the Second Amendment. But we have slightly differing views of our role within the justice system and how that applies to the new gun legislation.

As an elected sheriff, I do not have the constitutional authority to create or challenge legislation that is lawfully voted upon by Colorado’s elected representatives. My job is to enforce the law with the discretion to which you have elected me. There would be a severe conflict of interest within the system if the person implementing and enforcing the law are the same ones who write those laws.

I have been sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress and the state Legislature. Whenever there is a perceived conflict between enacted laws and the Constitution, discretion is crucial.

Laws are voted upon and established for the protection of its people. The people expect an appropriate response that retains a human element to include the facts, circumstances and intent of the individuals involved. This is an integral part of law enforcement.

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The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is committed to maintaining the highest standards, in the implementation of laws and preservation of our freedoms and liberties in accordance with standard practices for the safety and well-being of the entire community it serves — keeping in mind that the primary function of the Second Amendment is for the protection of its citizens, and to be effective, that protection must be equal to that of the attacker.

While some are quick to indicate that these provisions were put into place in the day of the musket and thus have no validity today, I must disagree. As threats increase with the development of technology, the methods of protection must equal that of the threat. If you are being attacked with an assault rifle, then your weapon had better be of equal capability.

And let us not forget that criminals clearly do not care about any legislation. It is the law-abiding citizen who is most impacted by these laws. The added background checks would not have prevented the most recent mass attacks, making these new laws simply a feel-good piece of legislation that will only make gun ownership among legal purchasers much more difficult, with little impact upon illegal activity and future horrific incidents.

Laws provide the guidelines from which law enforcement and judges impose a degree of common sense by evaluating the unique perspectives of the community and intent of all involved. This is why these positions are elected, to reflect the will of those it serves.

A sheriff is not in the position of making laws, but is entrusted to distinguish between illegal activity and those merely acting stupid, or those who are behaving in compliance with established community protocol but who may have inadvertently done something counter to legislation.

Our neighborhoods are filled with those who are quite familiar with firearms, as well as those who have never touched a gun. It is vital that all feel comfortable in their homes and neighborhoods, and are able to do so within our justice system.

Eagle County has a highly diverse population, and its ability to respect those of differing opinions is one of its greatest strengths. I am humbled to have the opportunity to represent everyone in this county, regardless of party affiliation.

Gun ownership is a treasured right that comes with enormous responsibility. The representatives of Colorado have voted to enact certain legislation, which has been signed by the governor. I will work to uphold all legislation in accordance with established protocol, through the use of discretion and sound judgment, in conjunction with community values.

One of my greatest honors is in serving you. Together, we will continue to make Eagle County the envy of the nation.

Joe Hoy is the sheriff of Eagle County.

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