Sheriff supports college CCW in Liberal Country


June 11, 2007, 12:45 PM

Jim Alderden is the Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado

By Sheriff Jim Alderden

Following the tragic events at Virginia Tech, I was frequently asked if something like that could happen here. The sad truth is something like that could easily happen here, and most anyplace else. Many on the far left were quick to call for yet more gun control, but I don’t believe more or tougher gun control laws is the answer. Criminals and like minded individuals are always going to ignore the law and find ways to get guns, or if not firearms, other weapons or means to carry out their schemes. One of the real tragedies of the situation at Virginia Tech is that misguided administrators created a gun free zone where someone like this crazed individual could prey on other students, staff and faculty who were powerless to defend themselves. Their philosophy of keeping guns out of the hands of sane and law abiding citizens on campus potentially contributed to the tragic results. Locally, we are fortunate that at Colorado State University, the administrators have shown more common sense and recognize that a firearm in the hands of a law abiding citizens who frequent the campus is not a risk but could be a deterrent to violent criminal activity. While there are a number of students, staff and faculty at CSU who have Concealed Weapons Permits, admittedly, the chance of one of them being at right place at the right time to intervene is small, but compare this to the situation at Virginia Tech where there was no chance.

That said, availability of guns or lack of concealed weapons isn’t the primary cause of the events at Virginia Tech. Their real problem, and the problem we face here, is the inability of the system to adequately address the issue of mental illness. The authorities in Virginia knew the shooter was dangerously mentally ill, but couldn’t prevent his killing spree. Throughout Larimer County and our local municipalities there are many individuals who are just as tormented and demented as the Virginia Tech shooter. Some are well known to the law enforcement and mental health communities, others are not.

A case in point is the recent ambush of Matt Gulakowski by Barry Shebs. We were aware of a conflict between the two who had adjoining units in an industrial area, but there was nothing we were privy to that indicated Shebs was mentally ill or prone to violence. Absent any significant contacts or complaints regarding this individual, it is easy to see how this happened. There was nothing that law enforcement, the courts, or the mental health practitioners could have done to prevent this. He simply never was on our radar.

However, there are others who pose a real threat to themselves or others and of whom we are well aware. For those of us on the front line, the problem is that it isn’t illegal to be crazy and the system is ill equipped to deal with the chronically mentally ill. To cite one example, since mid 1998, one of our local police agencies and the sheriff’s office have been dealing with an individual whose mental condition has been steadily deteriorating. Collectively we have had over seventy incidents with this person. In many cases, the individual wants to report offenses which simply did not occur. Without going into detail, let me just say the allegations were typically delusional and bizarre. This individual then targets a neighbor or other acquaintance as the perpetrator and responds with threats and verbal outbursts.

Just within the past twelve months, the sheriff’s office has arrested this individual for harassment and disorderly conduct, and twice placed a seventy two hour mental health hold which requires a psychological evaluation. When arrested, the individual is able to post bond. When a psychological hold is placed at a treatment facility, the subject is deemed to have mental health issues, but not an “imminent” danger and released. Once released, the person has more paranoid and delusional episodes and makes more threats.

Having never been adjudicated in a court as mentally incompetent or a danger to himself or others, he is still eligible to purchase firearms and in fact is known to own several. In the estimation of the deputies who regularly deal with him, he is quite capable of snapping at some point and carrying through on the threats. While we perceive the danger, we have no authority to confiscate the weapons. Understand, this person truly believes he is the victim of dozens of crimes and that the police, courts and District Attorney are all part of the conspiracy with whomever he targets as the perpetrator. This person feels the criminal justice system isn’t going to solve the problem or protect him, and is likely to take matters into his own hands at some point, just as Shebs did.

Colorado’s financial support for treating mental illness is grossly inadequate, far below the national average. Larimer County is allocated only six beds in the forensic unit at the state psychiatrict hospital. Until the system is better able to identify and treat individuals with severe mental illness, and confine them when necessary, tragedies such as Virginia Tech and the Matt Gulakowski homicide will continue.

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June 11, 2007, 01:12 PM
Dupe thread. ABD at:

June 11, 2007, 01:46 PM
Closed as duplicate.

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