DENVER – Colorado’s Senate has voted to advance a bill that would allow firearms to be seized from people who are determined by a court to pose a significant risk.
The vote Friday evening followed hours of debate on the Second Amendment and due process on the Senate floor.
The bill still has to pass a third vote in the Democratic-led Senate before it can return to the House to consider Senate amendments.
The Colorado Senate is debating HB19-1177, the Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill, this afternoon ahead of a possible second vote on the measure.
If passed, there would be a legal process to allow law enforcement officers or family members to ask a court to temporarily remove guns from a person if they’re determined to be a danger to themselves or others.
If a court approves an order to seize weapons from someone deemed a risk, they would be allowed a hearing up to 364 days later to determine if their weapons should be returned or where the order should be extended.
Many counties have passed resolutions in opposition to this bill. Several sheriffs have also voiced opposition.
The House has already passed the measure. The Senate would need to pass the measure on a third reading before it advances to the desk of Governor Polis. So far, the bill has passed every vote on party lines in favor of Democrats.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser supports the passage of House Bill 1177 creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove guns from individuals suffering a mental breakdown. “I believe the Heller Decision is quite clear, the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not absolute,” Weiser said.
He went on to say that he’s confident his office can and will defeat any legal challenge to the bill. Senator Rhonda Fields then asked Weiser what would happen if a county sheriff still decided not to uphold the law, even after the legal challenge.
While he thought such a scenario was unlikely, Weiser went on to say that such a move would be inappropriate.
“If a sheriff cannot follow the law, the sheriff cannot do his or her job,” Weiser said. “Which means, the right thing to do for a sheriff who says ‘I cannot follow the law’ is to resign. It is not to disobey the law.”
Supporters of the bill include Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle and Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. Spurlock’s office lost Deputy Zackari Parrish on New Year’s Eve 2017 when he was shot and killed by a mentally ill veteran named Matthew Riehl. Riehl’s mental health concerns were known to his relatives, doctors, and law enforcement prior to shooting and Sheriff Spurlock has publicly stated his belief that a red flag law, sometimes called a gun restraining order, could have prevented the violence.
The bill’s sponsor is freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan, (D) of Centennial who lost his son Alex in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. He will be joined by House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett, (D) Denver, Sen. Lois Court, (D) Denver, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, (D) Lakewood.