Here at Law Enforcement Today, we’ve touched on the topic of red flag laws on several occasions, describing the issues they present, the dangers they pose when being enforced and the stark contrast they pose against what has been outlined within our country’s founding values.
Still, this didn’t stop Colorado from creating their own law regarding “red flags”. Certain counties within Colorado are at ends regarding a new state gun law that will go into effect in January of 2020. The law that the state is soon to tote will allow a judge to issue an extreme risk protection order so that law enforcement can remove firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
Several Colorado sheriffs say they won’t enforce a new gun law that will allow for the temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals whose dangerous or threatening behavior raises a red flag. @60Minutes reports, tonight https://t.co/0nbaSXA73Q pic.twitter.com/qi9xnkk4fD
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 17, 2019
While the recently passed legislation is troubling and also far too malleable with regard to how a confiscation can be drummed up, the ones tasked with confiscating legally owned firearms aren’t exactly on board with the new law. Nearly half of Colorado’s counties have responded to the bill, passed in the new Democrat-controlled statehouse, by declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
Second Amendment Sanctuary statuses have been popping up throughout the country recently, partly as a quippy response to “Sanctuary Cities” for those illegally present, but also to protect legal gun owners as well.
Several sheriffs in the state of Colorado are digging in their heels against a gun law that will go into effect January 1, allowing for the temporary confiscation of firearms if a gun owner shows dangerous or threatening behavior https://t.co/UQje4z7XFd
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) November 15, 2019
Most are well aware that we began to see these laws crop up shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some incarnation of them.
Josh Horwitz, head of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, was one of the initial authors of the model of the law that’s been widely adopted.
When explaining the laws reach and purpose, he stated, “This is a law that is a temporary civil restraining order that allows family members or law enforcement to go to a court… before a tragedy occurs. And if the judge agrees and issues the order, law enforcement will… remove the firearms and then somewhere between seven and 21 days everybody will come back to court, there’ll be a full hearing. If the person, in fact, is dangerous to self or others, the firearms will be kept by law enforcement, and that person won’t have access to them for a year.”
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Several Colorado sheriffs are ready to rebel against the law, including Steve Reams of Weld County, which is now a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” county. Sheriff Steve Reams says his first responsibility is to the U.S. Constitution.
“There are portions of the law I just flat out can’t and won’t do. I’ll support the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the state of Colorado and then, I’ll enforce the laws of the state of Colorado. When those things are in conflict you know you have to decide which one you are going to adhere to.”
The sheriff is well aware that his rebellious attitude toward the passed law could land him in jail, but if it comes to that he says he would file a lawsuit, which he acknowledged.
“We’ll determine at that point if this Red Flag law is constitutional.”
Sheriff Bill Elder of El Paso County also finds several issues with the law, saying it doesn’t sufficiently address mental health and makes the center piece the gun and not the person when pertaining to gun related homicides or mass shooting related crimes.
“We need to have funding for meaningful mental health assessments and treatment. There just are no programs. The state hospitals are full,” Sheriff Elder said.
Tony Spurlock, a sheriff based out of Douglas County, is actually a huge supporter of the newly passed piece of legislation. He’d lost his deputy, Zack Parrish, during a New Year’s Eve shoot out in which a heavily armed man struggling with mental health issues had barricaded himself inside his suburban Denver apartment.
During that standoff there were 185 shots that were fired, which left six others wounded. Sheriff Spurlock wished the law had been in place that night.
“Probably a month before, we would’ve been able to intervene, and in my opinion, most likely would have saved two lives. We would’ve saved the suspect’s life and we would have saved Zack’s life.”
The debate is, and always has been, a heated one. While second amendment advocates will say people simply want to take guns and usurp the constitution, red flag laws advocates say that those against the laws have no moral compass and a disregard for human life. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the respective counties for and against the new law.