History might tell a sad tale: City folk unleashed wolves in the country, then stifled the rancher’s gun.
Colorado Democrats, with full control of state government, are taking on gun and property rights protected by the Second, Fifth and 14th amendments and the state constitution. It is the latest trend in urban encroachment on rural lifestyles, like a real-life scene from the Netflix series “Yellowstone.” It threatens to widen Colorado’s urban-rural cultural divide.
Colorado long has defended the sanctity of gun rights. Voters recalled two Democratic senators, including the Senate president, for passing a relatively modest gun control measure about this time 10 years ago. A third senator resigned in advance of a recall to ensure an appointed successor would preserve the Democratic majority.
They were the first Senate recalls in state history and became a nationwide spectacle. The ordeal pitted a grassroots movement and the NRA against megabillionaire and then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. When Bloomberg failed to stop the recalls, he blamed country simpletons.
The recalls, he told Rolling Stone, were “in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads. It’s as far rural as you can get,” Bloomberg said of the Springs and Pueblo, the state’s second and ninth largest cities respectively.
The recalls came after Morse, Democratic Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron and other urban Democrats spearheaded a bill to limit gun magazines to 15 rounds. As usual, rural voters had no say.
A decade later, 15 House and two Senate Democrats want to authorize county commissioners to prohibit firing guns on rural private property. Yes, “private property.” House Bill 23-1165 passed the full House on Thursday and heads to the Senate.
Longstanding law says counties may not “prohibit discharge of firearms in shooting galleries, on private grounds, or in residences under circumstances that do not endanger persons or property.”
HB 1165 repeals the private property exemption and the density requirement. It would empower county officials to forbid shooting on private land in areas with 30 or more dwellings per square mile — greatly expanding potential no-shooting zones.
The law would allow politicians in glitzy resorts — think Aspen, Telluride, Steamboat Springs and Vail — to forbid shooting on farms and ranches established long before Hollywood discovered the Rockies. If the bill becomes law, they might come back for more and eliminate shooting on all private property.
Sponsored by Boulder area Reps. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder and Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, the bill results from residents in Clear Creek County complaining about the sound of neighbors shooting.
The NRA calls the legislation an “extreme” attempt to “control what happens on your private property.”
David Kopel, a liberal Democratic Boulder lawyer and professor of constitutional law, fears the bill could do harm.
“Because suburban sprawl has eliminated so many public shooting ranges, practice on private land has become all the more important,” Kopel said.
“The state Legislature’s bill to authorize the prohibition of safe target practice on private land will seriously undermine firearms safety. The bill is another example of the Democratic majority’s malicious and dangerous culture war against responsible firearms users.”
Eight Democrats, including House Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, voted against the bill and in favor of rural constituents.
Opponents of HB 1165 say it would empower urbanites to settle in rural areas and recraft customs and traditions to fit their lifestyles.
Wealthy urban transplants habitually impose economic and cultural change on rural Colorado by force of law. They close mines, fuss about agricultural smells and force progressive curriculums into rural classrooms.
Urban migrants too often move to the countryside like softer versions of 19th-century settlers who disrespected Native traditions. The bumpkins don’t need guns — just call 911 for emergencies and visit a big-box store for food. Lose that ugly mining job and “learn to code,” implored President Joe Biden in rural West Virginia.
Defenders of this bill invoke “local control” as inherently virtuous. Yet, local control gave us Jim Crow laws and segregated schools. Local control disarmed black farmers and former slaves to render them defenseless. We ratified the 14th Amendment to stop local violations of federal civil rights protections.
The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection of federal laws — including gun and property rights — from locals exerting unlawful control. The spirit of the law protects the fundamental rights and customs of farmers and ranchers who settled here long before celebrities heard “Rocky Mountain High” from a country boy in Aspen — a man who mocked “city folk riding in black limousines.”
Gunfire in the mountains, valleys and plains — like howling wild predators — can be disruptive and frightening to newcomers. Yet, it is the sound of rural recreation, tradition, livelihoods and survival. They sent wolves that kill livestock and pets. They should not, in turn, control the rancher’s gun.
The Gazette Editorial Board