Candidates Speak to Grand Junction Gun Owners

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Candidates Speak to Grand Junction Gun Owners

by Ari Armstrong, September 12, 2002

Grand Junction's Pro Second Amendment Committee hosted its annual "Informed Gun Owners' Conference" September 7 in Lincoln Park. Around 70 people attended, and candidates from the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green parties addressed the audience.

Ralph Shnelvar (Libertarian for Governor) criticized Bill Owens for signing Amendment 22 on the first line. That initiative expanded gun registrations at gun shows. I reminded the crowd that Wayne Allard supports national legislation based on Amendment 22. The most interesting discussion was between John Gurley (L) and Stan Hilkey (R), the two candidates for Mesa County Sheriff.

"I support all your Bill of Rights, ever single one of them... I'll stick to my principles," Gurley said. He touted the virtues of Vermont's concealed carry law, which says that anyone who can legally buy a handgun can also carry it concealed. No special permit is required. (The criminal use of a handgun is, of course, legally prohibited.) Given Colorado's laws on concealed carry, Gurley wants to make the permit process "as easy as possible." He doesn't believe the permit system should require extra photographs and fingerprints of the applicants. "I unequivocally support the Second Amendment" as a means to "preserve liberty and preserve our freedom," Gurley said.

Hilkey said he wants to continue Mesa County's permit system. "I absolutely support your Second Amendment and concealed carry," he said. "That right is precious to all of us." Hilkey, who cited his 16 years of experience in the sheriff's office, summed up, "Policing is not something you do to a community, it's something you do with a community."

Sheriff Clausson said his office issues a permit to almost everyone who asks for one. He said one person was denied within the last year. He said those who ask him for permits are "good honest American citizens." The trouble is with violent criminals who act outside the law.

The Pro Second Amendment Committee is to be commended for training thousands of people in the safe and effective use of firearms. The group also deserves praise for its annual banquets and conferences. The cultural differences between Mesa County and Denver Metro counties are striking.

In the metro area, it's difficult to get any candidate to speak up for concealed carry. In Grand Junction, the debate was over who could issue the most permits. In the metro area, even Republicans waffle on the gun issue. On the Western Slope, even Democrats sing the Second Amendment tune. It's extraordinary, actually.

As an LP member, I was proud of Gurley's thoughtful presentation. But Hilkey is good on gun rights -- the only thing he said that made me nervous was a brief reference to the drug war. We can only wish every race in Colorado were characterized by this drive to outdo each other in loyalty to the Bill of Rights. That's the condition for which libertarians should strive.

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