New “red flag” bill would allow gun seizure for six months or more from those who pose “significant risk”

In response to a series of deadly shootings, Colorado lawmakers introduced a new bill Monday to allow judges to order the seizure of guns for six months or longer from people who are considered a “significant risk” to themselves or others.

The “red flag” measure is named for Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish, who was shot to death Dec. 31 at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex by a man experiencing a mental health crisis.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Parrish’s family believes such a law could have saved the 29-year-old deputy’s life.

House Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, front, announces a new “red flag” measure to allow judges to seize firearms from people who are considered a risk. He is joined by other supporters of the measure at a press conference at the Colorado Capitol on April 30, 2018.

“They beg you. They beg the legislators – the Senate — to pass this bill to protect officers and citizens and save them from tragedies that would be averted if we just had the tool to do the work,” he told reporters at the Capitol.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said that he supports the concept of the legislation if “people’s civil rights are completely protected,” and his administration is considering possible executive action on the issue if lawmakers fail to act.

But the bipartisan legislation – sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and House Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial — faces a difficult path in the session’s final days, particularly given the partisan split in the General Assembly and the contentious nature of gun legislation.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, wants to scrutinize the language on how a person’s firearms are taken and who takes possession of them.

“We have to see the details,” Grantham told reporters ahead of the bill’s introduction. “I haven’t liked what I’ve heard so far.”

So far no Senate sponsor is listed, despite additional support for the measure from Republican district attorney George Brauchler, who is the party’s expected nominee for attorney general. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, an ardent gun-rights political group, took to Facebook to attack Wist and Spurlock, calling the measure a “Gun Confiscation Act.”

Under the legislation, a relative, household member or law enforcement officer could petition a judge to issue a temporary extreme risk protection order, known as ERPO, that allows for the removal of firearms from a person who poses a significant risk.

Within seven days, the court would hold a second hearing on whether to evaluate evidence that would prohibit the person from controlling, possessing or receiving a firearm for 182 days, or six months. If requested, a judge could extend the order.

A violation of an order would be a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by three to 12 months in prison, and multiple violations would qualify as a felony punishable up to 18 months in prison.

To determine if a person is a significant risk, the judge could consider recent credible threats of violence, relevant mental health issues, any history of domestic violence, abuse of controlled substances and evidence of a recent acquisition of a firearm or ammunition.

“This bill will save lives,” Spurlock said. “This bill does not infringe upon your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

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