DENVER – The House gave the final approval today to the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, better known as the Red Flag bill, that would allow law enforcement officers or family members to ask a court to temporarily take away the firearms of a person who could be a danger to themselves or others.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Sullivan, has been in the works for over a year and includes input from law enforcement, the mental health community, advocates for gun violence prevention and elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was murdered in the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting on his 27th birthday. Sullivan wears Alex’s jacket every day and wore it during the course of the debate in the House.
“My son Alex lit up rooms and was beloved. One of the reasons I ran for office was so I could tell all of you about Alex and about other victims and families of gun violence. Today the House stood up and did the right thing. This bill will give law enforcement and families the tools that they need to stop tragedies from constantly happening and save lives,” Rep. Sullivan said.
HB19-1177, which was also introduced in 2018 and passed in the House with bipartisan support, is named in honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III, who was killed in the line of duty New Year’s Eve in 2017 by a mentally ill veteran named Matthew Riehl. Riehl’s mental health concerns were known to his relatives, doctors, and law enforcement prior to the shooting.
A few Democrats are going public about their concerns with the bill. Rep. Bri Buentello gave a statement about her decision to strike down the bill.
“Many of my constituents, Republican, Democratic, and Unaffiliated alike voiced concerns regarding this bill. I understand the goal to help protect law enforcement and save lives and have been working to balance that with the fact that the second amendment, due process, and mental health are both causes near and dear to my heart. With all this in mind, I considered it my duty as the representative from Fremont, Otero, and Pueblo counties to vote no on HB19-1177,” said Rep. Buentello.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners have voiced their opposition against this bill, declaring it will, “do nothing to prevent another Columbine, Aurora, or Parkland.” Weld County Sheriff Reams and retired Castle Rock Police Commander John Anderson are also against the bill.
Through this bill, family members or law enforcement can petition a judge for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for someone who is showing violent or dangerous behavior or is at significant risk or hurting themselves or others.
If approved, a temporary order would be placed for up to two weeks and the court would hold a hearing to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for a full ERPO.
During the hearing, respondents will be provided with free legal counsel. If the judge determines the respondent poses a serious threat to themselves or the community, the protection order may be approved for up to 364 days.
The respondent can also request to have the order terminated at any point during that time period.
14 states have enacted bipartisan ERPO laws and at least 29 other states and Washington D.C. have considered similar laws.
Colorado lost over 1,100 people to suicide in 2017. Studies show that access to a gun in a home triples the risk of death by suicide.
Indiana’s firearm suicide rate decreased by nearly 8% in the ten years after their ERPO legislation was enacted.
The bill was approved in the Colorado House on a vote of 38-25 and now heads to the Senate.