DENVER | Colorado Democrats have introduced a bill to permit the seizure of guns from persons deemed to pose a threat by a judge. While some polls show wide support for the measure, some opponents are saying it lacks due process.
The “red flag” bill would allow family or law enforcement to seek a court order to have guns seized if they believe the owner poses a threat to himself or others.
If approved, a subsequent court hearing would be held to determine whether to extend the seizure, up to a maximum of 364 days. That’s up from the bill introduced last year. In 2018, the bill said that temporary seizure would be no more than seven days and permanent seizure was not to exceed six months.
Unlike an unsuccessful bill last year, this year’s version would leave it up to the person whose guns were seized to prove they no longer pose a risk.
Opponents object to that condition. Supporters say it will save lives.
Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Dudley Brown, who has long objected to stricter gun policies in Colorado, said the bill is “designed to strip gun owners of their lawfully owned property, without due process, violating both their Second and Fifth Amendment rights.”
“Often the gun owner is the victim of an ex-spouse or former girlfriend seeking revenge, and only learns of the police action once his door is broken down by a SWAT team. We oppose this legislation in the strongest terms.” Brown said in a statement Thursday.
“It’s unfortunate House Democrats picked the anniversary of a major school shooting to push a bill weaponizing police against law-abiding citizens instead of the criminals who perpetrate these attacks. The bill will do nothing to prevent another Columbine, Aurora, or Parkland.”
Feb. 14 marks the first anniversary of a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The bill died in a Republican-led Senate committee last year. This year, the bill doesn’t face that hurdle in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but it’s so far unclear where the Senate President stands. Following the announcement of the bill, Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said in a statement he looks forward to more conversation on the topic, but didn’t hint at whether he’d support it.
“I recognize this conversation is difficult, but it is one we need to have and an issue we need to address,” he said in the statement. “We must protect the most vulnerable while respecting law-abiding citizens. I look forward to continued conversations with Majority Leader Garnett and Coloradans to ensure that we find the best policy for Colorado.”
Bill sponsors include first-term Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed on his 27th birthday in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
This year’s bill lacks a Republican co-sponsor. Last year, former Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, co-sponsored the bill. He faced backlash from Brown and RMGO for supporting the bill, though many Colorado law enforcement officials supported the bill.
I ran for office to fight for bills like this. We can give our communities the tools they need to end an epidemic of gun violence. We can prevent massacres like the Aurora shooting where my son Alex was murdered from happening again. We can change Colorado for the better. https://t.co/d2sWVfpuyl
— Representative Tom Sullivan (@Sully_720) February 14, 2019
In a news conference announcing the bill, Sullivan, who wore his son’s jacket, said he’s “not doing this for Alex and my family, I’m doing it for yours.”
“Watching your child’s body drop into the ground is at bad as it gets,” he said. “And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure none of you have to do that, and I don’t care what party you belong to, I don’t care what gender you are, I don’t care what country you come from, I’m going to do everything I can until this jacket falls off me.”