Statements by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa on a local radio show Saturday had people buzzing about gun control.
Now, the sheriff appears to have backed off on at least some comments he made on KVOR’s The Jeff Crank Show. During Saturday morning’s broadcast, Maketa said actions by state Senate Democratic leaders border on extortion, blackmail and “attempted influence of public officials.”
Maketa, who could not be reached Monday morning, said during the show that he received an email from the County Sheriffs of Colorado saying Senate Democrats are very upset with sheriffs’ opposition to gun-control bills.
Maketa went on to say that the Democrats were trying to influence the sheriffs to reconsider their positions and were indicating that “sheriffs obey or you will pay.”
He said the legislators in favor of gun control are withholding a bill that would give Colorado sheriffs pay raises until they support the bills.
“I was absolutely outraged,” Maketa said to Crank, adding “I think it absolutely needs to be checked into.”
Maketa said, “I’m going to push it,” when Crank insisted that the state Attorney General’s office needs to investigate what Maketa called extortion.
On Sunday, the sheriff made a post on Facebook.
“I want to make something very clear; I have not been directly threatened or coerced in any way nor would I tolerate any threat,” said a post on the Terry Maketa for El Paso County Sheriff Facebook page.
Representatives for Attorney General John Suthers and for 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May said Monday that no complaints had been filed by Maketa.
The post on the sheriff's Facebook page said the “salary proposal is being held hostage.”
“They are holding the salary of sheriffs hostage to gain compliance with gun control matters,” the post said.
On Monday, Senate President John Morse responded to the accusations.
Morse said he denied a request from two members of his own party to consider pay increases for sheriffs and other county officials a month ago because it wasn't politically appropriate.
He said it was not a threat to sheriffs to coerce support of gun legislation.
“It had absolutely nothing ever to do with guns, ever. That's just so fabricated it's just completely ridiculous and absurd," Morse said. "How dare you not get the facts before you make an allegation.”
Morse said he was still too livid to try and speak with Maketa.
"He accused me of a felony on the radio, and he knew it was false," Morse said. "This is a political stunt."
Colorado senators were expected to take final votes Monday on several gun-control measures, including on magazine ammunition limits and expanded background checks.
The chamber was debating five of seven bills in the Democrats' gun-control package. Other measures included a gun ban for people accused of domestic violence crimes and a ban on online-only gun training for a concealed carry permit. The final measure would revive background check fees for gun purchasers.
The gun measures were given initial approval Friday after more than 12 hours of debate.
Two parts of the Democratic gun package were pulled because of lack of support. Those were a liability measure for gun owners and a concealed-weapons ban on college campuses.
Maketa entered the gun-control spotlight in January, responding to the mid-December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults died.
Maketa offered to give El Paso County teachers and school personnel firearms training and waive the charge for their concealed weapons permits.
TOWN HALL MEETING
Sheriff Maketa and El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton will hold a "town hall" public meeting Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave. The meeting will give the public the chance to ask questions about legislation in Denver and Washington that would mean more gun control.
Gazette reporter Megan Schrader and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Check gazette.com for updates to this story.