Colo. sheriff says he'd rather go to jail than enforce red flag bill

Weld County is one many Colorado counties to have declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County”

By Tyler Silvy
Greeley Tribune, Colo.

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams told CNN recently he’s willing to be a prisoner in his own jail rather than enforce a law he feels is unconstitutional.

Reams’ statement came during a recent visit from CNN, during which he gave the crew a tour of the jail as well, Reams told The Tribune via text message Sunday.

House Bill 19-1177, also known as a red flag bill or the Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill, passed the Colorado Senate 18-17 on Thursday, and is scheduled Monday for the House floor.

The bill would allow a family member, roommate or law enforcement officer to petition a judge to take someone’s firearms if they’re determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

Weld County is one many Colorado counties to have declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County,” with county commissioners here unanimously approving a resolution stating they would not allocate funding to enforce the bill should it become law. The resolution also expresses commissioners’ support for Reams, who has likewise vowed not to enforce the bill should it become law.

Part of that enforcement includes housing confiscated firearms, something Reams has said he doesn’t have the space to do.

More than half of Colorado’s counties oppose HB 1177, and Reams has testified against the bill at the Legislature.

Reams’ stance could put him in legal jeopardy, though, as he could be held in contempt of court for failing to enforce a valid court order. It’s within that context that a CNN reporter asked the following:

“Are you willing to sit in your own jail to avoid enforcing this law?”

Reams’ response:

“Well obviously no sheriff wants to be confined in their own jail, but if that’s what it takes to get this bill ironed out, then I guess that’s a sacrifice I’ll be forced to make.”

In a phone interview Sunday with The Tribune, Reams added more context for his remarks to CNN, saying he’s not at all hoping to get thrown in jail.

“The worst way to bring attention to it is for me to be put in that position, but I’ll do that before I’ll violate somebody’s constitutional rights,” Reams said.

Instead, Reams said it’s about challenging the law in court.

“We’re working hard to try to figure out a mechanism to get this into the courts before anybody is harmed by it,” Reams said. “Unfortunately, someone has to be damaged by it first. It comes down to whether I want to take this to court for violating somebody’s rights or for me refusing to enforce a court order.”

Reams appeared earlier this month on the Fox News program Fox & Friends to discuss the Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill, saying the bill didn’t actually focus on mental health at all.

According to CNN, other groups are already formulating legal challenges should the bill become law, so it’s likely Reams would never see the inside of his own jail as a prisoner.

Still, when asked, he told CNN he’s not bluffing.

“I’ve explained that time and time again — I’m not bluffing,” Reams said.

To read CNN’s story, or to watch its video, click here.

©2019 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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