Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario plans to persist in a lawsuit aimed at overturning new statewide gun control measures, even after a federal judge ruled last week that he and 54 other Colorado sheriffs don’t have the standing to argue that the laws would make their duties as police officers more difficult.
“We can no longer argue that these changes harm us in our official capacity, we can only argue as individuals,” Vallario told the Garfield County commissioners on Monday, signaling that he would remain a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Gov. John Hickenlooper to defend his personal constitutional rights.
The sheriffs’ lawsuit was filed in May, shortly after Hickenlooper signed two gun control bills. One mandates criminal background checks for all retail and private gun transactions, where some private sales could take place without the checks prior to the law. The other limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds each. The laws took effect July 1.
Vallario and his fellow sheriffs were joined in the suit by several sportsmen’s groups and gun rights organizations, who argued that the laws infringed on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and were too vague and confusing to enforce.
Their suit was dealt a blow last week when U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the sheriffs couldn’t sue the state government over an alleged violation of the U.S. Constitution. The judge also ruled that the sheriffs had failed to show how they would be prosecuted or otherwise concretely injured by the new gun control laws.
“To establish standing, a plaintiff must show that he or she has suffered an ‘injury in fact’ that is concrete and particularized… (not merely conjectural or hypothetical),” Krieger wrote. Still, the judge emphasized that the sheriffs could persist as private citizens in the lawsuit if they chose.
On Tuesday, Vallario pledged to stay on, and said he’d even consider spending his own money on incidental expenses arising from the lawsuit if necessary. So far, many of the legal costs associated with the suit have been borne by the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Golden. Vallario maintained that he hasn’t spent taxpayer money on the suit.
Vallario said he’d continue fighting because he believes that mandatory background checks punish law-abiding citizens rather than criminals, and harm his deputies’ ability to do their jobs.