October 26, 2020

Dear Editor,

The extreme Risk Protection Order, ERPO, commonly known as the “Red Flag Law” and the attendant effort to declare Chaffee County a second amendment sanctuary has played prominently as a 2020 campaign issue.  Many of the descriptions of the Board of County Commissioner’s (BoCC) decision not to take up the question of becoming a sanctuary county are inconsistent accounts with what actually happened.  I attended the March 19, 2019 meeting of the BoCC and am writing to set the record straight as to what really happened that day.

“Study in Black”, wood sculpture by Sean O’Meallie. “These guns are on the verge of mayhem. Only the lucky and the absent survive.” -Sean O’Meallie. Merrell Bergin image, courtesy Sangre de Cristo Arts Center – Pueblo, CO.

Sheriff Spezze presented his case for a “sanctuary” declaration. Following that, Commissioner Felt expounded at length upon the support the county had given to the Sheriff’s Department and the reasons the “sanctuary” designation was inappropriate. Felt’s comments were echoed by Commissioner Baker.  Commissioner Granzella voiced his discomfort with the term “sanctuary” and said he could not support the “sanctuary” designation.

In the end, no commissioner offered a motion to consider the “sanctuary” declaration and the matter died.

Chairman Felt subsequently lost control of the meeting when a member of the audience stood and demanded a “vote” on the issue by the Commissioners.  One by one, the commissioners voiced opposition to the “sanctuary” declaration.  It is unclear why Commissioner Felt allowed this to occur, as no public comment was to be allowed at this meeting, as noted in the published notice for the meeting, and there was no motion on the floor.

Two days later, on March 21, the commissioners and Sheriff Spezze signed a statement expressing “serious reservations” about the bill as written. Areas of concern mentioned were “legal issues, fiscal issues, lack of emphasis on mental health, and impacts on law enforcement.”

It’s is clear that many who have written letters to The Mountain Mail regarding the ERPO Statute appear not to be aware that opposition to the “sanctuary” declaration was unanimous within the BoCC and that concerns about the bill were unanimously expressed later by all three Commissioners and Sheriff Spezze. A video record of the meeting is available for viewing.

There are remedies available to repeal the ERPO but none have been taken.  The remedies are judicial, legislative, and electoral. To put the county’s financial security at risk of lawsuits from non-enforcement of the ERPO Statute would be irresponsible on the part of the Commissioners. Perhaps this is why they acted unanimously in opposing the ”sanctuary” designation.

JoAnne Allen


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