'Red Flag' Bill In Colorado Could Allow Gun Confiscation For Months

“Red Flag” legislation continues to pick up steam across the country, as members of both sides of the political aisle view extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) and legal gun seizures as effective ways to combat gun violence and save lives. Colorado’s state legislature is the latest to consider passing its own version of a “red flag” bill.

According to The Denver Post, the Colorado Senate introduced the bill on Monday, which would “allow judges to order the seizure of guns for six months or longer from people who are considered a ‘significant risk’ to themselves or others.”

The Denver Post reports:

The “red flag” measure is named for Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish, who was shot to death Dec. 31 at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex by a man experiencing a mental health crisis.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Parrish’s family believes such a law could have saved the 29-year-old deputy’s life.

The death of deputy Zackari Parrish last December was tragic, as officers responding to a domestic disturbance call were not expecting to have to take cover from rifle fire. What so often seems to be the case in shootings nowadays, there may have been warning signs that the shooter was about to snap. A press release from the sheriff’s office, as reported by The Denver Post, stated, “One male said the suspect was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown.”

Parrish’s family believes this law could have saved Officer Parish’s life and will save countless lives in the future, and so does Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sheriff Tony Spurlock. But Gov. Hickenlooper wants to approach the legislation the right way.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said that he supports the concept of the legislation if “people’s civil rights are completely protected,” and his administration is considering possible executive action on the issue if lawmakers fail to act. “They beg you. They beg the legislators – the Senate — to pass this bill to protect officers and citizens and save them from tragedies that would be averted if we just had the tool to do the work,” he told reporters at the Capitol.

While the legislation has bipartisan support in the Colorado House, Republican senators are wary of the bill’s wording. The wording of “red flag” bills is often the sticking point for gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment, as there are concerns that the language will be too vague and result in blatant infringements on one’s right to keep and bear arms. Gun rights groups are voicing their opposition, as well.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, wants to scrutinize the language on how a person’s firearms are taken and who takes possession of them.

“We have to see the details,” Grantham told reporters ahead of the bill’s introduction. “I haven’t liked what I’ve heard so far.”

So far no Senate sponsor is listed, despite additional support for the measure from Republican district attorney George Brauchler, who is the party’s expected nominee for attorney general. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, an ardent gun-rights political group, took to Facebook to attack Wist and Spurlock, calling the measure a “Gun Confiscation Act.”

If the legislation were to pass, it would allow for a relative, someone living with the individual, or law enforcement to go before a judge to obtain the order. If a judge grants the ERPO, the court will review the decision, weigh the evidence, and determine if confiscation of the individual’s firearms is still necessary. Currently, the bill has some stiff penalties for those who would violate the order.

Within seven days, the court would hold a second hearing on whether to evaluate evidence that would prohibit the person from controlling, possessing or receiving a firearm for 182 days, or six months. If requested, a judge could extend the order.

A violation of an order would be a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by three to 12 months in prison, and multiple violations would qualify as a felony punishable up to 18 months in prison.

To determine if a person is a significant risk, the judge could consider recent credible threats of violence, relevant mental health issues, any history of domestic violence, abuse of controlled substances and evidence of a recent acquisition of a firearm or ammunition.

Six months is a long time, and according to the report, the judge can extend the order if new evidence is brought forward. Time will tell if Senate Republicans come around the bill. By the sound of it, if “a significant risk” is more narrowly defined, it may get the bipartisan support it needs.

Dec 04, 2021 11:30 AM ET