Red Flag Bill Close to a Vote

Mar 27, 2019

A controversial measure that would temporarily seize weapons from people deemed a risk could get its final vote in the state Senate any day, putting it on the path to for Governor Jared Polis to sign it. Mark Duggan reports.

Rep. Tom Sullivan (D) says that the extreme risk bill will reduce firearm deaths, especially suicide.
Credit LEIGH PATERSON/KUNC

The so-called “Red Flag” bill is already in use in 14 other states. It creates Extreme Risk Protection Orders by which law enforcement officials can confiscate a person's guns if a judge decides they're at risk of committing suicide or hurting others. Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, supports it, and spoke on the Senate floor last week.

“This is not about grabbing anyone one's guns,” she said. “This is truly about saving lives and protecting our community.”

But the bill faces tough opposition, including by some county sheriffs, as Republican Sen. John Cooke explained recently.

“They're worried about their deputies going in on a surprise visit, to take somebody's gun. It's already a volatile situation,” Cooke explained.

Colorado Republicans argue the measure denies the gun owner due process because they aren't allowed to be present at the confiscation hearing.

About two dozen Colorado counties have passed resolutions saying they won't enforce Extreme Risk Protection Orders if the policy becomes law.

Governor Jared Polis, meanwhile, says the state’s sheriffs have discretion to decide which issues to focus on.

“I have great respect for all the sheriff's we have in our great state,” said Polis Tuesday. “And I know that while they have discretion around prioritization of the resources they have internally, I'm fully confident that all of them will implement laws that we pass here through the democratic process without prejudice”

Colorado's Attorney general Phil Weiser has said sheriffs who refuse to enforce the measure should resign.

But Polis encourages the bill's backers to work with law enforcement to address their concerns. He declined to say whether he would do anything to enforce the Red Flag Law.