Governor Apologizes for Gun Law Mistakes

Jun 15, 2014

Governor John Hickenlooper talks with county sheriffs at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen on Friday, June 13th.
Credit Elise Thatcher

 As the campaigning for governor heats up, Governor Hickenlooper is facing lingering anger over new gun regulations he signed in to law.  Last week, on a visit to Aspen, Hickenlooper faced some of his toughest critics over the new laws; county sheriffs. Fifty-six of them have sued the governor to rescind the gun restrictions.  

Hickenlooper was on the hot seat and his comments drew immediate fire from election challenger Bob Beauprez. After the conference the Republican took Hickenlooper to task for apologizing to the sheriffs.  

One of the new laws limits gun magazines to fifteen rounds, while the other expands background checks. Officers have said enforcing the magazine law is legal quicksand, and increasing checks has had unintended consequences. Governor Hickenlooper acknowledged he and lawmakers could have done a better job.  Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo described the moment this way:

“The governor came here today and apologized for some of the mistakes that were made with that which I thought was courageous.”

Still Hickenlooper wasn’t backing down and as the meeting continued, the governor appeared to get a little testy…

“He apologized, and then another Sheriff asked a question that kinda held his feet to the fire, the governor quite frankly said, ‘I’ve apologized, what the **** do you want from me?’”

It’s not often we hear a governor drop the “f-bomb” in public, and Sheriff DiSalvo was quick to point out, “I don’t want to make it sound like he said it in anger, because he didn’t, it was very tongue in cheek.”

Still, the comments on the gun laws and how they rolled out were enough for Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob Beauprez to later accuse Hickenlooper of, quote, failed leadership.  Beauprez is a longtime politician and rancher from Lafayette who failed in his run for governor nearly a decade ago. And he’s made the gun laws a central part of his campaign against Hickenlooper.

Campaign video:  “... and we deserve the freedom and fullness of opportunities, that have always made Colorado the greatest place on Earth...It’s time to get Colorado back on track. I’m Bob Beauprez and I’m running for Governor…” 

The gun suit continues while a federal judge considers whether the new laws are unconstitutional. Hickenlooper attended the sheriff’s conference at the invitation of Joe DiSalvo, and the suit was just one part of his address.   

Overall, at the conference there was far more attention paid by the sheriffs to legalized marijuana. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle describes it this way.

“It’s an issue for all of us, and we’ve had people who have developed psychosis and harmed themselves and killed themselves under the influence.”

Tragedies like that have happened elsewhere in Colorado as well.

“We have a common interest in seeing THC limits you know, regulated in edibles, and having some kind of really clear packaging and clear dosage information and that kind of thing.”

And he thinks there’s the political will to do that.

Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus, based in Southwest Colorado, agreed that retail marijuana is a big issue. As for the conference, he enjoyed it.

“You know I hesitated to come to Aspen, just because of the cost, but you know it’s been great.” Another issue that came up during the Governor’s talk was salaries for law enforcement. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.

“Sheriffs all over this state are grossly underpaid, a lot of sheriffs are paid less than people that work under them, and the governor said if elected that’s something he is going to address.”

Hickenlooper’s re-election bid might not be hurt by the sheriffs’ complaints though. Sheriff Pelle said the audience was more or less neutral to Hick’s campaign.

“Among the sheriffs, there’s every inch of the political spectrum, from Tea Party, very right wing conservative guys, and to more liberal democratic guys like Sheriff DiSalvo and myself...But I think the conversation with the governor went really well.”

In the end, Sheriff DiSalvo got perhaps the most ribbing from the gathering of mostly conservative law enforcement.  He received some good hearted... but pointed criticism... about his generally liberal stands on guns and marijuana.