Advertisement
VICE News

Colorado lawmakers just passed a "red flag" law to take guns away from dangerous people

The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ desk for his signature.

by Tess Owen
Apr 1 2019, 7:51pm

Want the best from VICE News in your inbox? Sign up here.

Colorado lawmakers just passed the state’s first “red flag law,” which would temporarily remove guns from people believed to be dangerous to themselves or others.

The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ desk for his signature. The law passed the newly Democrat-controlled Legislature 38-25 on Monday, with two Democrats voting against it. State Republicans killed the same bill last year.

Fourteen states plus Washington, D.C., now have “red flag laws” on their books. Eight of those states passed their laws in the year since the Parkland massacre, which left 17 dead at a Florida high school in February 2018.

The shooter, a former student of the school, had exhibited a number of warning signs in the years leading up to the shooting. Police were called to his home numerous times for domestic disturbances. He’d shared pictures of himself self-harming and of his cache of firearms. Under Florida law at the time, no legal process gave police the authority to temporarily remove his guns. But Florida was one of eight states to pass a red flag law in response to the Parkland shooting.

Under Colorado’s law, police or a concerned family member or household member can petition a court for a temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order. If the petitioner demonstrates that someone is at “significant risk” of harming themselves or others, law enforcement will seize that person’s firearms. The court has 14 days to schedule a hearing, after which they’ll decide whether to return the firearms or keep them for a year.

Though red flag laws generally enjoy broad support among Democrats and Republicans, a growing "Second Amendment Sanctuary" movement exists in some states, like Oregon and Washington, which passed their own red flag laws prior to the Parkland shooting. Some counties in those states have passed local ordinances that give their sheriff the authority to enforce or not enforce whichever gun laws they see fit.

Some county officials in Colorado have signaled that they plan to follow suit.

In an interview Monday with CNN, Sheriff Steve Reams of Weld County, Colorado, said he’d rather go to jail than enforce a red flag law, because he believes it’s “unconstitutional.”

Colorado’s gun ownership rate is 34.3, which is the 29th highest in the country.

Cover image: In this Feb. 23, 2016 file photo, gun safety and suicide prevention brochures are on display next to guns for sale at a local retail gun store in Montrose Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)