NewsCovering Colorado


Southern Colorado weighs in on expansion of state’s red flag law

Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-28 12:42:26-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A series of gun bills at the state capitol are one step closer to the governor's desk tonight. Lawmakers worked through the weekend to try to pass some controversial pieces of legislation.

One of the bills included expanding the state’s red flag law.

A red flag law was first introduced in the Colorado state legislature in 2018. The bill failed in the then republican-controlled state senate. The following year, democrats gained control of the senate and maintained a majority in the state house, and then the red flag became law.

While it was being discussed at the state capitol, several counties across the state declared themselves, "second amendment sanctuary or preservation counties,” saying in part they would not enforce the law. The 2019 bill limited who could file the extreme risk protection order to law enforcement and certain people deemed close to someone such as family or even roommates.

Fast forward to 2023, this bill is now on its way to Governor Polis' desk and it expands who can file the order to district attorneys, health care workers, educators, and mental health providers.

As the bill advances through the legislature, people in Southern Colorado are weighing in about the legislature's plan to expand the law. Some believe the expansion of the red flag law can be a tool to prevent shootings.

“It will not prevent all tragedies related to gun violence or gun suicide, but it's a tool. It's an intervention that maybe we can get early on to prevent the tragedies that we see,” said Deb Griffin, a volunteer with Mom's Demand Action, a group that supports tighter gun restrictions.

Others say the bill infringes on second amendment rights.

“This is a politicization of the second amendment and of people's right to protect themselves,” said Darcy Schoening.

Schoening is a member of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition. She testified online against the bill saying red flag laws and other anti-gun legislation does not work.

“These laws don't help anybody. They don't work. Municipalities and counties throughout Colorado have passed these laws time and time again,” said Schoening.

Meanwhile Griffin testified in favor of the bill at the state capitol. She said a friend of her's died by suicide years ago.

“That tragedy has lasted forever. So if we had had the extreme risk protection law at that time, we could have interceded,” said Griffin.

Erik Stone, a Teller County Commissioner also testified against the bill. In a statement he said, “adding this responsibility to teachers who are already overloaded with responsibilities is unreasonable.”

But Griffin disagrees.

“There are people that are closest to the person in crisis, and they would be the person to identify early on so that we can intervene in a timely manner before it becomes a tragedy,” said Griffin.

Griffin also added, that as a nurse for more than 40 years, she’s seen the devastation that a gun can have when victims are brought to emergency rooms.

Those against the bill also say there needs to be more enforcement for laws already on the books.

“Rather than looking at restorative justice practices, we can use the adequate laws we already have, without stripping families have the right to protect themselves,” said Schoening.

The proposal comes after the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs last year. Critics say the suspect should have had an extreme risk protection order filed against him after a bomb threat he made in 2021.

In a statement from El Paso County Sheriff Joe Roybal, he said: "I prioritize upholding the Constitution and keeping our community safe. Unfortunately, SB 170, the expanded Red Flag and Extreme Risk Protection Order law, allows non-law enforcement professionals to use stale, likely expired information against citizens and violates their 2nd Amendment, Constitutional rights. As the Sheriff sworn to uphold our Constitution, I find this legislation problematic. I will do everything in my power to vet ERPOs that come across my desk and ensure El Paso County's citizens' rights are preserved with our community’s safety in mind."

The Sheriff's Office in Teller County had "no comment."

Three bills have advanced both the state house and senate, but the bills need additional approval on amendments. That does include the expansion of the red flag law, a bill to allow survivors of gun violence to file civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers, and a bill to raise the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

That third bill does add exemptions for 18-year-olds who have a hunting license or if they own a gun under the supervision of a direct family member. Another bill could be heading to the governor's desk soon. It would require a 3-day waiting period from the time someone buys a gun to the time someone receives it. It's being considered in the senate right now.

Finally, another bill that would ban assault weapons in Colorado, is scheduled to go before a legislative committee on Wednesday. The bill defines an assault weapon as a semiautomatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine.


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