COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Club Q shooting suspect’s 2021 arrest for allegedly making bomb threats has put Colorado’s red flag law back in the spotlight and now lawmakers are exploring potential changes.
Colorado’s red flag law, which passed in 2019, allows a family or household member or law enforcement to petition a court if they believe a person poses a significant risk to themselves or others.
They can ask a judge to issue an order, known as an extreme risk protection order, to have the person’s firearms removed and prohibit them from purchasing other firearms.
It appears local law enforcement in El Paso County did not pursue court actions to have the suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich’s guns taken away following their 2021 arrest.
Local officials have declined to comment on the matter and the records in the 2021 case are sealed.
A coalition of media outlets, including Denver7, has filed a lawsuit in an effort to have the records unsealed.
Following the lead of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, some lawmakers, including State Representative Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, say it may be time to consider changes to the red flag law, like expanding who can petition a court to have guns removed from someone's custody.
“I'm not privy to all of the information, especially the law enforcement information in Colorado Springs, but I think it's worth looking at,” Froelich said. “There have been discussions of whether or not physicians or district attorneys could be added to the list of people.”
Democrat State Senator-elect Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and who sponsored the red flag law as a House member in 2019, said lawmakers discussed who should be able to petition a court, but it kept getting narrowed down.
“That’s one of the things we fought with a lot during the debate to get the bill passed,” Sullivan said. “It would be great if [we added] district attorneys, attorney generals, health care professionals, you know, that kind of stuff that they already have in other states.”
Froelich, who chairs a new gun violence prevention caucus, says lawmakers can’t stop there.
“No matter what tweaks we make to the red flag law, we're going to have to look at implementation and look at enforcement of a whole host of the gun violence prevention measures that we've already passed,” Froelich said.
Some law enforcement officials opposed the law before it even passed.
“I believe that protecting the constitutional rights of my constituents comes before enforcing a law that might violate those same rights,” Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams said to lawmakers in 2019.
In a resolution, El Paso County commissioners promised to “actively resist” the legislation, saying it “infringes upon the inalienable rights” of citizens in the county.
In a policy statement published on his department’s website, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said while his office would comply with court orders, none of his deputies would petition a court to remove guns from someone “unless exigent circumstances exist.”
“It is the policy of the Sheriff’s Office to respect and protect the constitutional rights of all those we serve,” the statement reads. “The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will ensure that the rights of people to be free from unreasonable search and seizures and to receive due process of law are safeguarded and maintained. These protections are reflected in our mission statement, the law-enforcement code of ethics and codified in our policies.”
Froelich says local opposition to state laws is nothing new.
“We are a home rule state, and it is common for local authorities to oppose all sorts of legislation,” Froelich said. “And it is up to us to then react legislatively to make sure that there aren't loopholes and gaps in enforcement.”
An Associated Press analysis of the law found Colorado courts issued 151 gun surrender orders since the law took effect in 2020, a much lower rate than the other 18 states and the District of Columbia with red flag laws.
It’s unclear what lawmakers can or will do, and there’s no way of knowing if anything would have prevented the Club Q shooting.
But after the tragic loss of life at a place the LGBTQ community considered a sanctuary, the pressure appears to be building for lawmakers to do something.
The new legislative session starts in January.