The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports on the introduction of a bill today that’s sure to result in some of the most vigorous debate of the 2019 session–a debate that, if history is any guide, will struggle mightily to remain inside the bounds of reality:
It’s called a “red flag” or extreme risk protection order bill, and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, is again sponsoring it in memory of Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish, who was killed at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex in 2017 while he tried to negotiate with a man in the midst of a mental health crisis…
The way an extreme risk protection order would work under this bill is that law enforcement, family member or a household member could petition a judge for the removal of a person’s firearms. The judge would hold a hearing — without the gun owner being present — to decide whether to grant a temporary order for up to 14 days.
During those two weeks, the gun owner and the person who asked for the order would tell the judge why those weapons should or shouldn’t be returned. The judge could extend the order for up to 364 days.
As Staver reports and the details are worth understanding, this year’s version of the bill includes changes suggested by criminal defense lawyers to ensure that anyone subject to a court order to temporarily surrender their firearms has access both to legal representation and a clear path to having their gun rights restored. These changes are intended to mollify Republican opponents, who have repeated the mantra for years of “focusing on mental health” with regard to gun safety instead of regulations on hardware and access. Public polling shows overwhelming 80%+ support for “red flag” legislation, which on seemingly any issue except guns would make this a political no-brainer.
Despite these changes, this year’s bill appears to have even less Republican support than the 2018 version. The reason for this is well-known to our readers, after the bill’s GOP co-sponsor in the House last year was pummeled in return by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners during the election–“friendly fire” that played a key role in Cole Wist’s loss to Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan. Sullivan, the father of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting, could not be more antithetical to RMGO’s agenda, but that didn’t matter to them as much as enforcing party discipline on their single issue.
And even though “red flag” is as good as law in the 2019 solid blue Colorado General Assembly, there’s little doubt that RMGO considers the lack of Republican support for the bill this year to be a strategic victory–while the rest of the Republican coalition would call it winning a battle to lose the war. We’ll be watching closely to see if any other Republicans who have expressed prior support have the courage to speak up for the current bill. Here’s looking at you, George Brauchler.
The key difference is that this year, Republican infighting over this bill is background noise.
They are irrelevant–thanks in no small part to RMGO.