Gun laws unenforceable, but El Paso sheriff says he'll still try to enforce them
During recent months, numerous sheriffs, including Larimer County's Justin Smith and Weld County's John Cooke, have ripped proposed gun-control measures before the Colorado legislature.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has been critical of such efforts, too. But his office is upset at local media outlets that have interpreted his view that some are unenforceable with saying he wouldn't try to enforce them. Details, videos and more below.
Last week, as reported by 7News, Maketa made headlines by suggesting that Democratic lawmakers were pressuring law enforcers like him to go along with SB 197, a measure restricting gun ownership for people found guilty of domestic violence.
Outside the town hall last Thursday.
"As I see it, senate Dems have made it known, 'Sheriffs, obey or no pay for you.' The first word that comes to my mind is extortion," Maketa wrote on his website.
He elaborated in this Facebook post:
I want to make something very clear; I have not been directly threatened or coerced in any way nor would I tolerate any threat. A message delivered verbally to a representative of the Colorado Sheriff's Association basically stated that the Senate Dems are very upset with the Colorado Sheriffs opposing the gun legislation proposed by the Senate Democrats. This message insinuated that this could negatively affect the salary bill which has been delayed and put off by the Democrats with the excuse that they would expect bipartisan support. I do believe the salary proposal is being held hostage.
To further back up his claims, Maketa released an e-mail exchange between him and Chris Olson, the County Sheriffs of Colorado's executive director. It's on view below.
Then, on Thursday, Maketa took part in a town hall meeting in Colorado Springs -- an event that focused on gun laws. Afterward, KOAA-TV reported that Maketa had said he wouldn't enforce new gun laws; the video can be seen on page two of this post. Such a statement would seem perfectly in keeping with his opposition to the legislation, and was hardly unprecedented; this weekend, Weld County's John Cooke said he wouldn't enforce bills calling for background checks and limiting magazine sizes. But Maketa was displeased, with his office putting out a press release (it's below, too) calling out the station, albeit not by name, for "inaccurate reporting."
How so? "The sheriff told the crowd that if a law is passed, he's responsible to enforce the law," says Lieutenant Jeff Kramer, public information officer for the EPSO. "He was very clear he had an obligation to enforce those."
As for why reporters might have gotten confused, Kramer says, "the sheriff also explained that many aspects of the laws are unenforceable -- but that doesn't mean he won't try to enforce them. Realistically, it can be very difficult to establish a criminal case against people based on the bills -- to know if someone is in violation, or if he might fall into a grandfather status, so to speak. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't try to enforce them."
The station wasn't named, Kramer goes on, because the sheriff's office had been negotiating with personnel there to get the error corrected -- and indeed, the KOAA link in the 7News story is now dead. However, the video remains accessible at this writing, and so are plenty of other reports based at least in part on KOAA's reporting -- the 7News item included.
The crowd that attended the town hall.
That's par for the course in 21st century media. If one outlet corrects an item, that doesn't guarantee others that may have passed along the same inaccurate information will do likewise. And Kramer acknowledges that finding and then contacting each of them isn't practical.
"I don't know if we're necessarily trying to run that race," he says. "We sent out our release to the broadest level of media contacts we have. We would hope folks would see the accurate position stated, correct it in past reporting, and be aware of it as they move forward in any future reporting.
"It's important for us, as it is with any law enforcement agency, to have positive relationships with the media," he adds. "We realize it's a two-way street, which is why we didn't name the station. But it's important to us that the correct stance is out there, so people will understand the sheriff's viewpoint."
Continue to see the KOAA report about the town hall (warning: the video is in auto-play, so it'll start as soon as you click on the page), plus a clip from a Maketa NRA radio program appearance, the e-mail exchange between Terry Maketa and Chris Olson, and the press release. Here's the KOAA video....
...and here's the NRA radio clip.
E-mail exchange between Terry Maketa and Chris Olson.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office press release:
Sheriff Terry Maketa Responds to Inaccurate Reporting in the Media
On March 14, 2013, Sheriff Terry Maketa participated in a Town Hall meeting at Centennial Hall to address hundreds of members of the community on the topic of current gun legislation being proposed at the State Capital. The event was widely advertised ahead of time and was attended by most local media outlets.
Sheriff Maketa was appalled and disappointed to see the inaccuracy in reporting which occurred on behalf of a local TV station in their on-line coverage of the statements he made during the Town Hall meeting. =The story was posted on the respective web page and had the title, "El Paso County Sheriff vows not to enforce some new gun control laws."
Furthermore, the fourth paragraph stated, "Maketa received a standing ovation when he started his presentation stating that he would protect Second Amendment rights and he laid out how his department would not support enforcement of news laws if they're passed. He said he would only enforce laws if the county could be held liable for any damages caused by his department's lack of enforcement."
The text used was not only inaccurate, but communicated the exact opposite of the message Sheriff Maketa gave to residents who attended the meeting. He was clear when he told the residents that he has an obligation to enforce laws which follow the legislative process and are signed into law. Sheriff Maketa explained to not enforce the laws would be irresponsible and could cause El Paso County to incur potential liability which the taxpayers would ultimately pay for. He even prefaced the comment prior to delivering it by telling the audience they wouldn't like what he was about to say.
Sheriff Maketa is working with this media outlet to correct this inaccuracy and gross misrepresentation of his statement.
More from our Politics archive: "Weld County commissioners really, really like the Second Amendment."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.