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February 09, 2024 12:57 PM UTC

How "Red Flag" Laws Became a Red Flag for George Brauchler's Political Ambitions

  • by: Colorado Pols

Republican George Brauchler walked away from his KNUS radio show last week so that he could focus his time and energy on winning the Republican nomination for the new 23rd Judicial District. The new district has a favorable Republican lean, but Brauchler’s flip-flopping history with gun safety reforms has him in hot water already. 

Before we get to that, however, let’s go through a brief rundown of why this new seat is even available for Brauchler to pursue. 

“The Magnificent Putz” returns

Brauchler served two terms as the District Attorney in JD-18 (from 2012-20). The 18th JD has combined Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties since 1969, but population growth in Colorado, marked by the 2020 U.S. Census, made clear what had already become obvious to everyone in the legal field: There were simply too many people in Arapahoe and Douglas counties to be effectively served by one district attorney. Beginning in 2025, Colorado will add a new judicial district (JD-23), which will serve residents of Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. The 18th judicial district will be reorganized to cover ONLY Arapahoe county. Brauchler is running to be the first-ever DA in JD-23.  

Brauchler had little trouble getting elected in JD-18 because there were considerably more Republicans than Democrats in the district in both 2012 and 2016. That started to change by the time Brauchler was term-limited in 2020. Brauchler’s chosen successor, Republican John Kellner, narrowly defeated Democrat Amy Padden in a contest that needed a recount to decide. Kellner recently announced that he would NOT seek re-election in JD-18 in order to pursue “other opportunities”; he undoubtedly also realized that JD-18’s demographic shift toward Democrats would make it very difficult for him to keep his seat. 

Brauchler will be running for office for the first time since 2018, when he flamed out as a candidate for governor before switching to run for attorney general (and ultimately losing to Democrat Phil Weiser). Brauchler considered making a run for CO-04 after Rep. Ken Buck announced his retirement last fall, but running for JD-23 made more sense than joining the ridiculously-large Republican field for Congress. 


Brauchler’s “Red Flag” Red Flag

Brauchler had a poor track record of losing high-profile cases when he was DA in JD-18, and many of his policy positions over the years have been what you might generously call “malleable.” But JD-23 has a decent Republican lean already – in 2020, voters in Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties went for Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Joe Biden by a 56-44 margin – and there is no registered Democratic candidate as of this writing. 

But there is another Republican candidate in JD-23: Dagna Van Der Jagt, who lost a GOP Primary in 2012 in JD-11 (Park County) but has the support of hardcore right-wingers such as former State Rep. Shane Sandridge. Van Der Jagt (VDJ) also seems to be favored by the no-compromise gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. While RMGO has lost much of its shine in recent years, the group can still influence the outcome of a Republican Primary – and that’s where Brauchler already has a problem.

On Thursday, RMGO Executive Director Taylor Rhodes went right at Brauchler with a sharp elbow, labeling him “an enemy of the Second Amendment.”

Via Taylor Rhodes, Executive Director of RMGO


Brauchler, Rhodes, and RMGO then engaged in a tit-for-tat argument on the platform formerly known as Twitter, which included a hint from RMGO that there was more to come:

Never Tweet, er, ‘X’

Brauchler is a political weasel who often ends up trying to extract himself from his own idiotic statements or actions, and that’s exactly what he’s hoping to accomplish here before he gets stuck with the label of Second Amendment Apostate. He clearly knows that he needs to head off this line of attack, but that’s a tough proposition when there is so much proof to the contrary. 

As the email above indicates, Brauchler definitely provided significant input into the crafting of Colorado’s “red flag” law, which allows law enforcement officials to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of individuals feared to be a threat to themselves or others. When the legislation was first introduced in 2018, Brauchler played a very public role in pushing it forward. He was even front-and-center at the press conference announcing the “red flag” bill.

As Rocky Mountain PBS reported in April 2018:

The so-called “red flag law” would allow families and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of a mentally ill person who is believed to be dangerous. That person also would be sent to involuntary mental health treatment.

The law would be named after Zack Parrish, a Douglas County deputy who was murdered last New Year’s Eve by a mentally ill man, Matthew Riehl. Four other law enforcement officers were wounded and Riehl also died in an exchange of gunfire after Riehl called 911 complaining about his roommate. 

Law enforcement officials and Riehl’s family knew for months that the 37-year-old man was mentally ill and that he had several guns. But under current Colorado law, they could not prove that Riehl was an “imminent danger” to himself or others, which would have allowed for involuntary treatment.

State Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver) and State Rep. Cole Wist (R-Arapahoe County) are jointly sponsoring the bill. But it’s unclear how much bipartisan support it will have in either house. Wist was the only Republican state lawmaker at the bill’s announcement this morning. Yet other Republicans are speaking out about it.

George Brauchler, GOP candidate for state attorney general, said while gun rights supporters should be cautious, this bill would fix a status quo that “isn’t working.”

“That’s what this bill is about: mental health. Not guns,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Brauchler was a full-on supporter of the 2018 “red flag” law. Full stop. To say anything else is a flat lie.

George Brauchler was literally standing right behind the podium when the 2018 “red flag” legislation was first introduced.

Brauchler did eventually oppose a “red flag” law in Colorado…but not until one year later. As The Denver Post reported in 2019, Brauchler came up with a silly technicality to justify his flip-flopping:

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, a Republican, was an outspoken supporter of Colorado’s 2018 red flag bill, but he testified against the 2019 version Thursday night. He said the changes made over the last year “went too far.”

Brauchler’s main problem with the current bill is a shift in the burden of proof for returning firearms from the petitioner to the gun owner.

“When it comes to depriving someone of their rights, I think the burden ought to always be on the petitioner,” he said.

In backing away from supporting a “red flag” law, Brauchler also abandoned someone whose support he could definitely use in his current campaign. From the same Post story:

“I have to tell you that this is a strange day for me. Today would have been Zach Parrish’s 31st birthday,” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told the House Judiciary Committee during testimony in support of the bill.

Spurlock’s deputy, Zackari Parrish, was shot and killed by Matthew Riehl at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex in December 2017 after trying to negotiate with Riehl, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis. The bill’s sponsors, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, named the bill after the fallen deputy.

Ironically, it’s biting Brauchler in the ass at a time when Democrats in the state legislature have been emboldened by shifting attitudes and demographics to become more aggressive on advancing gun safety legislation. Earlier this week, Nick Coltrain and Seth Klamann of The Denver Post explained that Colorado’s “red flag” law is now considered to have been a significant turning point in the push for bolder gun safety regulations:

Since approving the red-flag law — which was expanded last year in response to the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs — the legislature has passed notable legislation instituting a three-day waiting period for gun purchases; banning unserialized “ghost” guns; making it easier for victims and their families to sue gun manufacturers and dealers; mandating that firearms be stored safely and securely; and increasing the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21. The last bill has been put on hold by a judge while a legal challenge plays out.

Brauchler was once on the right side of public opinion here. He shifted, instead, in an effort to stay on the right side of groups like RMGO. In the end, all of this ducking and dodging on “red flag” laws just served to make “The Magnificent Putz” untrustworthy to folks on both sides of the political aisle.

The lesson is simple: Don’t be like George Brauchler.


7 thoughts on “How “Red Flag” Laws Became a Red Flag for George Brauchler’s Political Ambitions

  1. I doubt Van der Jagt can compete with Brauchler on either fundraising or name recognition, and I doubt this will be much of an issue in the election (primary or general). 

  2. The ONLY “name recognition” gun grabbin george brauchler has… IS BAD!
    He doesn’t stand a chance in this race.  
    The PEOPLE are all behind Dagny Van Der Jagt….
    Because unlike gun grabbin george… She is a supporter of the US Constitution!

    1. I suspect your knowledge of the constitution is about one amendment wide and a half-inch deep.  But we'll soon see who gets the nomination.  Regardless, the 23rd JD will have a moron for a DA, though given the electorate there, it's what they deserve. 

  3. Van Der Jagt is an uncommon name. The only time I’ve ever heard it was a cop who was killed several years ago. If I remember correctly, he had a small daughter. Does anyone know if this is she? it would be unsurprising if the girl followed her dad into law enforcement.

      1. The woman running for D.A. is not his daughter. I did some more digging and found a story about her in 9News' archives. She became a psychologist. She was still following her dad, who was studying for his PhD in psychology when he died. 

    1. There are three licensed CO attorneys with that last name.  Don’t know if there’s a connection to Bruce Van der Jagt or not, though it appears that’s her married name.  She refers to Atlas Shrugged in her campaign site bio, so it’s clear she’s an intellectual lightweight.  Also says she believes in God over nation, which means she’s unqualified to take the oath as a DA.  But perhaps she’ll be raptured away before the nomination comes.  In any event, I don’t see how George loses this race.

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