From the beginning of the discussion on red flag laws, opponents have argued that some people will try to use the laws to punish people for whatever reason. Unsurprisingly, we were called paranoid. Proponents of such laws argued that things like that don’t really happen because apparently people aren’t people or something.
Regardless, proponents claim it’s simply not an issue worth worrying about.
Yet, here we have a prime example of someone doing just that.
A mother whose teenage son was shot and killed by a Colorado State University police officer is seeking to have the officer’s weapons seized under Colorado’s new red flag gun control law. The case is a critical test of the bounds of the controversial law.
Susan Holmes filed an extreme risk protection order petition against Cpl. Philip Morris in Larimer County on Jan. 9. A hearing has been set for Thursday.
On her petition, Holmes also checked the box next to the question of whether this person has posed “a credible threat of or the unlawful reckless use of a firearm.” In her explanation, she wrote: “Phil Morris used his firearm to recklessly & violently threaten and kill 19 year old Jeremy Holmes.”
The problem is that Jeremy Holmes was shot and killed by Cpl. Morris in the line of duty in 2017, a situation that’s been described as “suicide by cop.”
But, how did Holmes file the order in the first place? After all, Colorado law states only police or family members can file an application for a red flag order, so how did Holmes file against Morris?
That’s easy. She lied.
You see, she claimed they were family. She said she had a baby with Morris. No such baby exists.
Now, Morris is fortunate here. He’s lucky because this is early enough in Colorado’s foray into red flag laws that such filings make news and, in this case, the media actually looked into it. The judge will likely learn of Holmes’s lies and dismiss the case.
But what if there hadn’t been a news report?
This is a huge part of the problem for me and a lot of other people. Without the media report–something you simply can’t assume will pop up on every case out there–Morris could potentially face losing his job.
And through this all, what happens to Holmes?
The Colorado legislature removed a provision from the original bill allowing victims of malicious red flag filings to seek civil damages. That means Holmes is going to walk away from this without even a slap on the wrist. After all, there’s no penalty in place for lying on the order, though the judge might decide to slap her with a contempt of court charge.
And all this is the best-case scenario. It’s also possible that the judge won’t even see the news reports and actually grant the order. That means Morris won’t be able to do his job. I’d like to think that his department would understand under the circumstances, but that’s not a given.
Pro-red flag folks will still try to tell me that this is a small price to pay or that this is an isolated incident or that it’s simply not a big deal. Well, I’m sorry, but the law shouldn’t be so easy to use as a cudgel to punish your enemies with.