Let’s be honest, 2020 wasn’t really the best year for damn near anyone. Imagine, on top of everything else going on, you had your guns taken away, even as people buying guns at a frenzied pace. Yet that’s what happened to at least 125 people in Colorado who ran afoul of the state’s red flag law.
That’s based on a report from the state attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office found the red flag procedures laid out by the law were used less than 125 times last year and of those instances, law enforcement were the main ones using the petitions. Attorney General Phil Weiser said that is not a bad thing.
“As a basic matter, law enforcement is and should be the natural place to go for red flag orders,” Weiser said. That’s exactly how Colorado’s violence prevention act is playing out so far.
The Colorado Department of Law found that 96% of petitions for temporary orders filed by law enforcement were successful. Only 32% of petitions filed by family members were successful.
Eighty-five percent of continuing orders from law enforcement went through. Those orders remove guns from someone for 364 days after law enforcement convinced a court that a person is a danger to themselves and others. Only 15% of continuing orders filed by family members were successful. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock believes the law is working as it should.
This is in a state with almost 5.8 million people.
Sure doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?
For what it’s worth, I’m actually a little relieved to see that petitions filed by family members don’t hold up. Those are far more likely to be motivated out of spite or hysteria than those filed by law enforcement. Seeing so many shot down suggests that judges are aware of this as well and aren’t interested in allowing the courts to be dragged into family drama.
However, when I read this report initially, I couldn’t help but think of the King Soopers shooting in Boulder earlier this year. Red flag laws, we’re told, are meant to stop this kind of thing. The shooter in that incident won’t show up in next year’s report of red flaw orders issued because the system simply didn’t pick that one up.
Meanwhile, how many of those 125 people were really a threat versus just scaring people? There’s no law against worrying folks, after all, and while it’s a good thing for people to try and make sure those that worry them aren’t actually a threat, we still don’t know that these people are a danger to anyone. That’s because red flag laws lack any real requirement for mental health professionals to examine those targeted.
So on every level, we have this law falling down on the job. All that while people are still telling us we need more such laws, including one at the national level. Why? So we can watch it accomplish nothing while still jamming up a lot of innocent people who just made the wrong person uncomfortable, that’s why, apparently.
The truth is, Colorado’s red flag law doesn’t seem to be doing what it was designed to do. That tells me it’s time to scrap it.