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GREELEY, Colo. — When Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County explains in speeches why he is not enforcing the state’s new gun laws, he holds up two 30-round magazines. One, he says, he had before July 1, when the law banning the possession, sale or transfer of the large-capacity magazines went into effect. The other, he “maybe” obtained afterward.
“How is a deputy or an officer supposed to know which is which?” he asks.
Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws — which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds — may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions.
Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes.
The resistance of sheriffs in Colorado is playing out in other states, raising questions about whether tougher rules passed since Newtown will have a muted effect in parts of the American heartland, where gun ownership is common and grass-roots opposition to tighter restrictions is high.
In New York State, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun law packages in the nation last January, two sheriffs have said publicly they would not enforce the laws — inaction that Mr. Cuomo said would set “a dangerous and frightening precedent.” The sheriffs’ refusal is unlikely to have much effect in the state: According to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, since 2010 sheriffs have filed less than 2 percent of the two most common felony gun charges. The vast majority of charges are filed by the state or local police.
In Liberty County, Fla., a jury in October acquitted a sheriff who had been suspended and charged with misconduct after he released a man arrested by a deputy on charges of carrying a concealed firearm. The sheriff, who was immediately reinstated by the governor, said he was protecting the man’s Second Amendment rights.
And in California, a delegation of sheriffs met with Gov. Jerry Brown this fall to try to persuade him to veto gun bills passed by the Legislature, including measures banning semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and lead ammunition for hunting (Mr. Brown signed the ammunition bill but vetoed the bill outlawing the rifles).
“Our way of life means nothing to these politicians, and our interests are not being promoted in the legislative halls of Sacramento or Washington, D.C.,” said Jon E. Lopey, the sheriff of Siskiyou County, Calif., one of those who met with Governor Brown. He said enforcing gun laws was not a priority for him, and he added that residents of his rural region near the Oregon border are equally frustrated by regulations imposed by the federal Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
This year, the new gun laws in Colorado have become political flash points. Two state senators who supported the legislation were recalled in elections in September; a third resigned last month rather than face a recall. Efforts to repeal the statutes are already in the works.
Countering the elected sheriffs are some police chiefs, especially in urban areas, and state officials who say that the laws are not only enforceable but that they are already having an effect. Most gun stores have stopped selling the high-capacity magazines for personal use, although one sheriff acknowledged that some stores continued to sell them illegally. Some people who are selling or otherwise transferring guns privately are seeking background checks.
Eric Brown, a spokesman for Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, said, “Particularly on background checks, the numbers show the law is working.” The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has run 3,445 checks on private sales since the law went into effect, he said, and has denied gun sales to 70 people.
Oil and gas executives at an industry conference in Montreal sipped on a rather unique beverage this week, the National Post reports — fracking fluid.
During a lunch presentation at the Quebec Oil And Gas Association’s annual conference, Halliburton Canada vice-president John Gorman handed out glasses of the company’s “CleanStim” fracking fluid, and some 20 to 25 execs — Gorman included — took a sip, the Post reported.
Talk about a potent potable.
Gorman said Halliburton “only had to replace very few chemicals with some food additives” to create a fracking fluid safe enough to drink. But the company maintains its fracking fluid is “not intended for human consumption.”
It was a publicity stunt, of course, one that Halliburton — which used to be headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney — has repeated multiple times in recent years.
It’s meant to show that environmentalists’ concerns about toxic fluids in fracking operations are overblown.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a U.S. congressional committee earlier this year that he drank Halliburton fracking fluid.
And it was likely not a coincidence that the latest round of fracking fluid drinking took place in Quebec, which has instituted a moratorium on fracking.
That moratorium has frustrated some energy companies hoping to jump-start the fracking industry in the province, and led to a lawsuit against the federal government.
Lone Pine Resources says it plans to sue Ottawa for $250 million under NAFTA provisions. The company claims Quebec’s moratorium on fracking beneath the St. Lawrence River, instituted in 2011, takes away the company’s “valuable right” to frack.
Violent clashes broke out earlier this month at Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick when police tried to enforce an injunction against an ongoing protest against shale gas exploration. Shale gas is typically extracted through fracking, which is a process by which water and chemicals are forced into rock formations in order to extract oil or gas.
Besides concerns that toxic chemicals could leak into the groundwater from fracking operations, some studies have suggested fracking exploration is causing earthquakes.
A new study from the British government, released this week, says fracking isn’t a public health risk, so long as it’s well regulated and well run, the Guardian reported.
- Halliburton exec’s new drink of choice: Fracking fluid (mining.com)
- Top Haliburton executive sips fracking fluid with colleagues in industry show stunt (business.financialpost.com)
- What Fracking Means for Bottled Drinking Water (knowyourbottledwaterblog.com)
- Fracking (xufenghuang.wordpress.com)
- Peak Oil Denial: Skimming Over Facts (peakoil.com)
- Fracking hysteria prompts industry code of conduct to quell fears (business.financialpost.com)
- ‘Low health risk’ from fracking (bbc.co.uk)
- Study: Fracking Sucks Up Freshwater At Alarming Rate (mintpressnews.com)
- Colorado Governor Admits No One Wants Fracking in Their Backyard (ecowatch.com)
- A Tale of Two Cities: Oil Drilling and Fracking in Northern Colorado (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Don’t let them frack the Grand Valley (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)
- Lafayette activists lead fight against Colorado fracking (watchdog.org)