AURORA | Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman is picking up where Colorado state lawmakers left off with legislation that would encourage states to adopt laws that allow local law enforcement to seize guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
Coffman said Tuesday he is co-sponsoring legislation that offers grants to states that pass legislation such as the “red flag” bill that died in a Republican-led Senate committee earlier this week, despite bipartisan support and approval from the law enforcement community.
“Giving law enforcement a tool to proactively remove firearms from the hands of a potentially dangerous individual, when combined with due process protections, makes sense,” Coffman said in a statement.
He told the Sentinel he’s hopeful the bill will have success in the House and Senate, as it already seems to have bipartisan support. Coffman said he’s already heard the NRA will not support the legislation, but it’s unclear how much they will push back against it.
Arapahoe County sheriff David Walcher and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler were among others who said they supported the state legislation, dubbed the “Zach Parrish” bill after a sheriff’s deputy was ambushed on New Years Eve in Highlands Ranch by Matthew Riehl. Riehl had a history of mental illness. Walcher and Brauchler said the legislation would improve law enforcement safety.
Walcher, who was unavailable for comment at print time, told the Colorado Independent that he is “sick and tired of law enforcement officers and citizens getting killed because we can’t intervene earlier.”
On Twitter, Brauchler said he supported the bill because “the status quo isn’t working.”
“Columbine. Arapahoe HS. Aurora Theater. Zack Parrish. I’ve been a prosecutor on too many of these horrors to believe ‘enforce the laws on the books’ works. It doesn’t. Now…we’re left with the status quo,” he wrote.
Coffman’s legislation is modeled after Indiana’s “Jake Laird” law, which was adopted in 2005.
To qualify for the $50 million in grants the legislation would make available through 2021, states would have to meet certain requirements such as the standards of when a judge could seize a person’s guns.
A judge could issue a warrant to seize a person’s firearms if he or she present an imminent risk of injuring themselves or another person. The legislation also says that firearms can be taken away if a person presents that risk and meets one or more of these criteria: has a mental illness that is controlled by medication, but the person has proven a pattern of not taking the medication, there is documented violence the person give reasonable belief they may be violent, and poses a threat by having a firearm.
The legislation also dictates that a state law would require a court hearing within 21 days of the seizure to assess whether a person is dangerous. If after 180 days the person is still considered unfit to have firearms, they could petition the court to get them back. If after five years they are still unfit, local law enforcement would be authorized to destroy the seized weapons.
Brauchler said he’s supportive of what Coffman is doing with the bill because it provides a “floor” for what states can implement. But added that he doesn’t support some of the framework in the bill, most notably that there are times when law enforcement would not need to address a court before being able to seize firearms.
“If that provision was taken out, I’d be far more supportive,” he said.
So far, nine states have passed “red flag” laws: Washington, California, Oregon, Indiana, Vermont, Florida, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut.
The Associated Press has reported that as many as 30 states are considering some version of red flag legislation.