Colorado appeals court: GOP lawmakers can challenge gun law

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DENVER |  A Colorado appeals court panel on Wednesday reinstated a lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers and a Colorado gun rights group challenging a “red flag” law that allows courts to order firearms taken away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

The lawsuit, filed in 2019, argues that majority Democrats in the House denied Republican lawmakers their constitutional right to have the red flag legislation be read in its entirety during debate. The bill was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, and the law took effect in 2020.

When one GOP lawmaker requested a reading, multiple clerks read sections of the bill simultaneously, the plaintiffs said. A second representative’s request that the bill be read was denied, they said. Democrats countered that the bill was being read on the floor at the subsequent request of a Republican lawmaker until he withdrew that request.

Colorado Politics reports that a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals overturned a Denver district court judge’s ruling that the judiciary should not intrude on the prerogatives of the Legislature or other branches of government. The panel cited a Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case that the courts can consider whether the Legislature has complied with the constitutional mandate for the reading of bills.

The panel said Republican Rep. Dave Williams and former Republican Rep. Lori Saine, now a Weld County commissioner, can pursue the case. It sent the case back to the lower court.

Colorado’s law allows family, household members or law enforcement to petition a court to have guns seized or surrendered. If a court grants the petition, a subsequent court hearing could extend a gun seizure up to 364 days.

The law places the burden of proof on the gun owner to get the firearms back by showing that they no longer pose a risk. Gun rights activists and Republicans objected to that condition and unsuccessfully tried to shift the burden of proof to the petitioner.

The advocacy group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, along with then-House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, filed the lawsuit with Saine and Williams. The appellate judges found Wednesday that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners didn’t have standing to sue as a taxpayer. Saine and Williams could sue as lawmakers, they said.

“This just makes my point all along: Essentially an unconstitutional bill was passed unconstitutionally,” Saine said Wednesday. “If they’re willing to abuse my constitutional rights as a state legislator, they will almost certainly abuse citizens’ rights with the red flag law.”

In a statement, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Taylor Rhodes said that “we are hopeful that we will win in the lower court and once and for all rid Colorado of this disastrous piece of legislation.”

The law is named after Zackari Parrish, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in a 2017 shooting by a man who had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior.

 

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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

Thank God they’re arguing over procedure and not the law itself. So, to satisfy them, read it aloud and vote again. No problemo. Every legislator knew exactly what the text of the law said, so their procedural argument is specious. I will try hard not to contemplate the number of times republicans have not followed “procedure.”

We, the citizens, often criticize legislators for not using their common sense when drafting and adopting laws. That isn’t the case with this one, as it is one of the most common-sense laws ever to come out of the State Capitol. As long as everyone’s right to due process is preserved, the law should be good to go.

vern
vern
2 months ago

Primarily the democrats keep working on ways to take gun rights away. Guns do not kill people- without someone using them. We need to look at training and screening those that can Legally get guns. But guns get stolen or bought illegally all the time. Having the court or someone decide that me or anyone is not fit to own the gun I bought and own legally… is an area more or less taking rights away. We need to make sure that that power is not used politically, and applied fairly. Until that is correct we need to protect everyone’s rights.