The Colorado sheriff whose county includes the movie theater where 12 people were shot and killed last year says law-enforcement officers have no right to ignore gun-control laws unless the courts rule them unconstitutional.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson issued a statement Wednesday criticizing police and sheriff's officials who have said they would not enforce gun-control laws they consider unconstitutional.
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke has said he wouldn't enforce any of Obama's plan to address gun laws, and sheriffs in at least four Oregon counties said in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden they wouldn't work with federal officials to enforce potential gun laws they consider unconstitutional.
Gun control was thrust back into the national debate after the mass shootings at the theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July, and at a school in Newtown, Conn., in December, where a gunman killed 27 people, mostly young children.
President Barack Obama has proposed a series of measures to curb violence, triggering a heated response from some gun-rights supporters.
Robinson said only courts — and not law-enforcement officers — have the authority to determine whether a law is unconstitutional.
For a law enforcement official to claim that authority would be the equivalent of police officers or deputies deciding that people they arrest are guilty and sentencing them to jail, he said.
"Public safety professionals serving in the executive branch do not have the constitutional authority, responsibility, and in most cases, the credentials to determine the constitutionality of any issue," he said.
Robinson said he supports gun rights under the Second Amendment.
Justin Smith, a fellow Colorado sheriff in Larimer County, has said on Facebook that he wouldn't enforce unconstitutional laws, but his spokesman has said Smith wouldn't try to determine on his own what is constitutional.
Robinson's deputies were among the responders who rushed to the Aurora theater after a gunman opened fire, killing a dozen people and injuring 70. His deputies also are guarding suspect James Holmes in the county jail, and they escort him to and from court appearances and stand guard during hearings.
Aurora city police are in charge of the investigation.
Holmes faces multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. He has not entered a plea.
In his statement, Robinson also said that mental health and gangs do not get the attention they deserve in the debate over gun violence.