Sunday, May 18, 2008

Colorado Sheriff protects right to bear arms

by SHERIFF John Cooke

"One especially contentious issue concerning the Second Amendment is concealed weapons permits. When I ran for my first term as sheriff in 2004, I contacted more than 600 delegates and alternates to the Republican county assembly to line up support for my party's nomination. The No. 1 question asked of me concerned my position on the Second Amendment and concealed weapons permits. This question cut across all demographics: young, old, white, Latino, men and women; and all professions: clergy, laborers, attorneys, teachers, stay-at-home parents, government employees and physicians.

Clearly, concealed weapons permits were important then and still are now to Weld County residents. To their credit, in 2003 a majority of Colorado legislators along with Gov. Bill Owens also recognized the importance of concealed weapons permits for the entire state.

The General Assembly found that widespread inconsistency existed among jurisdictions with regard to the issuance of permits. The inconsistencies resulted in "arbitrary and capricious" denial of permits based on where a person lived and not on his or her qualifications.

Legislators discovered other problems as well. Fed up with the blatant violations of the Second Amendment, Colorado lawmakers standardized the rules for issuing concealed weapons permits. Now, an individual cannot be denied a permit based on where he or she lives, and all permits are recognized statewide.

Another important change is that now only the county sheriff issues permits. In the past, chiefs of police also issued permits. However, chiefs do not answer to voters. Many did not agree with the majority of state legislators, Gov. Owens, the county sheriffs and Colorado voters that law-abiding citizens have the right to carry a concealed weapon, and therefore refused to issue concealed weapons permits. Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner does not fall into that category.

Even among sheriffs there is not total agreement on qualifications for concealed weapons permits. The biggest disagreement is on the entry of permit holders' name into a statewide database. In the concealed weapons law, it is optional for the county sheriff to enter the names into the database. I absolutely refuse to enter Weld permit holders into the state computer system just because they legally exercise their rights.

Government has no right to know who has a concealed weapons permit or who owns a gun. That's why I am so proud of the Weld County Sheriff's Office's most recent milestone. I just issued our 2,000th permit. From a safety perspective, I am happy that the number keeps growing. People have a right to self-protection and to live free from the fear of crime. Having a firearm and a concealed weapons permit help achieve those goals.

John Cooke is the sheriff of Weld County."

Would that more members of law enforcement were as freedom-friendly as you, sir.

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