Reporter Alex Zorn via the Grand Junction Sentinel:
With a little more than a month to go before new gun laws take effect in Colorado, law enforcement agencies locally and across the state are finalizing their approaches to enforcing legislation that some of them opposed as it was being drafted.
The extreme risk protection order (ERPO), also known as red flag laws, passed in this year’s Democrat-controlled Legislature. The measure, HB1177, allows law enforcement or family members of troubled gun owners to petition a judge to have those weapons removed under extreme circumstances, but only if the gun owner is deemed a risk to themselves or others.
Several county officials across the state, including some on the Western Slope, spoke against the bill as it was being debated. Some counties went so far as declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” such as Weld County.
Zorn reports that Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis, who joined with most of Colorado’s elected county sheriffs (with a notable exception in Douglas County) in opposing the state’s new “red flag” law, is still planning on enforcing the law when it takes effect with the new year. All law enforcement agencies in Colorado are required to have procedures in place to handle ERPO cases by December 31st.
As we’ve discussed a few times in this space since the passage of House Bill 19-1177, a long wait for the first ERPO case in Colorado is not expected. Intervention in impending firearm suicides is expected to be a more common occurrence than threats to the public, and in both types of cases family and household members petitioning the courts for an ERPO will start showing up quickly.
Once that happens, the law enforcement agencies who have declared that they will not enforce the ERPO law, most prominently Weld County under Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-owned Sheriff Steve Reams, are going to face a crisis. Attorney General Phil Weiser has stated that sheriffs who refuse to enforce the law face contempt of court proceedings and potentially being jailed. We believe that the moral crisis that would arise from such a refusal to enforce the law resulting in preventable death is a much more proximal concern politically, which is a nice way of saying that an elected county sheriff who lets someone die rather than enforce this law will face strong pressure to resign in disgrace and never run for public office again.
Unfortunately, it’s a question of how many preventable deaths will be necessary to convince our state’s elected politician-sheriffs to do their jobs.