COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Colorado courts granted 115 Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) during the Violence Prevention Act's first year of law according to a new report released by the Colorado Attorney General's Office.
The orders authorize law enforcement to temporarily remove and store firearms from a person who is believed to be a threat to themselves or others.
According to the report, a majority of the petitions for an ERPO came from law enforcement agencies. Eighty-five percent of the law enforcement requests resulted in the full one-year removal.
A third of the 364-day orders were issued after the respondent made suicidal threats, and another third were issued to respondents who threatened to harm others with their firearms. The remaining third of the 364-day orders involved individuals who threatened both suicide and harm to others.
State Representative Tom Sullivan from Centennial campaigned for election in 2018 on the platform of getting a red flag law passed in Colorado.
Sullivan lost his son Alex in the 2012 mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. He sees the report as vindication over some of the political opposition the bill faced as it was being debated in 2019.
"There is no confiscation of guns going on. I mean, I had state legislators accusing me, comparing me to Joseph Stalin because of legislation like this. I'm not anything like him, he does not live in Centennial," Sullivan said.
The report's authors found a general lack of public awareness about the availability of these court orders. They also found that some law enforcement agencies were more likely to request ERPO's than others.
"Expanding our education, awareness, and training efforts on the protection order process can help save lives," Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a news release. "We look forward to continuing our strong partnerships with agencies statewide to ensure we effectively use the tools we have to prevent suicide and gun violence while protecting the rights of lawful gun owners."
Rep. Sullivan believes a follow-up bill of his which created the Office of Gun Violence Prevention can help raise public awareness.
"If it's because they don't know about it, we can fix that," he said. "Also letting the general public know more about it, how it should be used and how it shouldn't be used."
The law restricts the ability to petition for an ERPO to immediate family members and law enforcement. In a number of the petitions submitted by families which were later denied, it was discovered that the petition had been requested from a court in the wrong county.
Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health found just four instances of inappropriate attempted use of the red flag process. Courts denied the petition in all four cases. One of them led to perjury charges against the petitioner.
The Colorado Attorney General's Office also successfully defended the constitutionality of the law in two separate legal challenges.