Controversial “Red Flag” law takes effect in Colorado
By Dan Karpiel
The highly controversial gun control measure known as the Red Flag Law took effect in Colorado last week.
The law allows citizens to petition a judge to have a family member’s firearms removed if they are deemed to be a threat to themselves or to others. Law enforcement officials may also petition the courts to have a citizen’s firearms confiscated if they feel someone could be a threat. If the judge agrees with the petitioners’ requests, law enforcement is then tasked with removing the firearms, forcibly if necessary, from the individual’s possession.
The law was passed last spring on a largely party-line vote in the Colorado General Assembly. In the House, the bill passed by a 38-25 margin with two Democrats – Representatives Bri Buentello of Pueblo and Don Valdez of La Jara – joining the entire Republican caucus in voting against the measure.
In the Senate, the bill passed by a 18-17 vote, with Democratic State Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo joining all 17 Senate Republicans in casting “nay” votes. The law was signed into effect by Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat and longtime advocate of increased firearms control measures.
The measure gained traction following the 2017 murder of Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish, who was shot killed by an armed and mentally unstable man. The official title of the bill was the “Zackari Parrish violence prevention act,” but was quickly dubbed the “Red Flag Law” as it is very similar to other such legislation passed in other states in recent years.
Other states that have the same or similar legislation on books include Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
Over the last year, when the variations of the bill began to gain steam in the Democratically controlled Colorado General Assembly, many county sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders expressed opposition. Many have also stated that putting their officers in the position of forcibly removing a citizen’s firearms puts the officials at great risk of serious injury or death.
Since the law was passed in the state Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Polis, nearly half of Colorado’s 64 counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” in protest of the law, including Weld County. Larimer County is not one of the counties to register an official protest, however, Sherriff Justin Smith has expressed a number of concerns with the measure. Counties that have declared themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries will not enforce the Red Flag Law.
Opponents of the measure argue it violates citizens constitutional rights under both the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, and the Fourth Amendment, which affords citizens the right to due process. A primary concern that exists under both constitutional protections, as well as outlined by Sherriff Smith, is whether it is legal to forcibly seize firearms when no crime has been committed.
Supporters of the measure argue that stricter measures of firearms control are needed to assure public safety and prevent tragedies such as those suffered by Deputy Parrish.
Democrats, who have majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature along with a Democratic governor, have announced plans to pursue further gun control measures this spring during the 2020 session of the Colorado General Assembly.
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