By: Robert Davis
On the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Colorado Democrats and some members of law enforcement unveiled the latest version of their Extreme Risk Protection Order – otherwise known as a “red flag gun confiscation” bill.
The red flag legislation is called the Deputy Zackari Parrish Violence Prevention Act, named in memory of a police officer killed in 2017 by a veteran suffering from PTSD. The law would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to force someone they deem to be dangerous to surrender his or her weapons and undergo involuntary treatment for mental illness.
According to the legislation, if someone is found to be an “extreme risk” to public safety, they would lose their Second Amendment rights for up to a year.
Republicans argue the law will encroach on the rights of law-abiding gun owners in the state and have threatened to recall Democrats who support the bill.
“I am alarmed at how easily the Democrats throw our Constitutional protections out the window in pursuit of their own agenda, and I am extremely concerned about the lack of due process in this bill,” Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) stated in a press release. “This is an even more draconian version of legislation than what we saw last year. In this version of the bill, innocent until proven guilty no longer exists. The burden of proof is on you to prove your innocence.”
Pushback from Law Enforcement
GPM’s Ted Patterson recently wrote an article about the nefarious ways ERPOs can be used to disarm law-abiding citizens. In it, he cites concerns that family members with an axe to grind could invent reasons to disarm someone. This, in turn, would jeopardize their civil liberties and force them to go to court to restore their Second Amendment rights.
Some of these concerns have been echoed by Colorado law enforcement officials, such as Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, who sees red flag laws as dangerous.
Reams wrote in a Facebook post:
“There are so many problems with this type of proposed legislation that I don’t even know if I can adequately summarize all of them. Even if one of these protection orders were issued, law enforcement would have no way of ensuring that all the firearms that an individual owns or has access to were removed from them.
“This bill requires the individual that is the focal point of the Extreme Risk Protection Order to prove that they are NOT a danger to themselves or others…In these cases, a presumption of innocence for the individual doesn’t seem to be afforded as would happen in every other type of case that a court has jurisdiction over.”
GPM recently reported on the trouble sheriffs in other states have with enforcing similar legislation. In Washington State, Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers said he would not enforce the state’s red flag law because it violates his constitutional duties and his oath of office.
Washington Police Chief Loren Pulp backed up Magers’ assertion by reminding state law makers that the Constitution supersedes state law.
“The second amendment says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. As long as I am Chief of Police, no Republic Police Officer will infringe on a citizen’s right to keep and Bear Arms, PERIOD!” Pulp wrote in a Facebook post.
Reams agrees with many gun rights enthusiasts that the 2018 version of the bill was bad, and that this years’ version is even worse.
“They figured out a way to make this bill worse than last year’s,” Neville said.
Republicans defeated a similar bill last year that would have taken away people’s guns for six months. This year, Democrats inserted a new provision to increase the length of gun confiscations.
“It came from working with the sheriffs and police chiefs who essentially came forward and said, ‘Six months is not enough time,’” Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver) told KDVR News.
Calling for a Recall
Gunpowder Magazine reported in January 2019 that Republicans were ready to recall Democrats if they tried to pass such extreme legislation. Now, those threats are growing louder.
“No one should feel they have to choose between their guns and getting the help they need. That is not a compassionate solution,” Neville said.
According to The Denver Channel:
Neville said the measure was “bad policy” and hinted that he believed Democrats could see consequences for passing the measure like some did when they were recalled in 2013 after passing gun violence prevention measures.
“As we’ve seen in the past, there are consequences to their overreach,” Neville told Denver7 Thursday morning.
“There was an overreach a couple years ago, and I have a feeling it’s going to be an overreach on this bill,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, echoing Neville’s sentiments.
Emotions Running High
The emotional weight of the red flag debate was evident in the speech Rep. Tom Sullivan (D- Arapahoe) – a Democratic co-sponsor – made last week on the hill in support of the bill. Sullivan’s son Alex was killed in the Aurora Theatre shooting in 2012.
“No one knows how to talk to the parent of a murdered child,” Sullivan said. “Watching your child’s body drop into the ground is as bad as it gets. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that none of you have to do that.”
Emotional arguments aren’t deterring committed gun owners from fighting to protect their Constitutional rights, however.
“Colorado gun owners loudly oppose so-called ‘red-flag’ schemes, because they are a gross violation of due process protections,” Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, told KDVR News.
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com or on Twitter @Davisonthebeat.