A bill that's divided Coloradans on either side of the gun debate is now just a vote away from heading to Gov. Jared Polis' desk.
House Bill 1177, titled Extreme Risk Protection Orders — better known as the "red-flag bill" — passed the Colorado Senate on March 28 on a vote of 18-17, with Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo the lone Democrat opposed. It now heads back to the House, which must approve the Senate's amendments. The House voted 38-25 in an initial vote March 4.
The bill would give judges the power to remove firearms from a person who "poses a significant risk to self or others," within two days of a household member or law enforcement officer petitioning the court.
The Senate's amendments, which don't substantially change the bill, include adding the requirement that a law enforcement officer serving such a protection order provide a notice with "referrals to appropriate resources, including domestic violence, behavioral health, and counseling resources."
“We at Ceasefire have worked for three years to bring this concept into law, and feel gratified that the Colorado General Assembly has embraced this life-saving measure,” Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action, said in a March 28 statement. “This is a significant step for a state that has suffered numerous horrific firearm tragedies."
The bill's House passage has already led to an uproar in Republican-majority counties across the state. The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted March 12
to become a "Second Amendment Preservation County," vowing not to "appropriate funds, resources, employees or agencies to initiate unconstitutional seizures in unincorporated El Paso County." Around two dozen other counties have issued similar resolutions.
At a press conference March 26, Gov. Polis said counties had the right to exercise discretion over how to enforce the law, the Colorado Sun reported
. He dodged questions over whether he agreed with Attorney General Phil Weiser's earlier statement that any sheriff who would disregard a court order to remove someone's firearms should resign.
The bill has been championed by nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, which has not taken a position on how counties should enforce it.
"We haven’t taken a position on the counties’ position or the enforcement of the law," interim CEO Nancy VanDeMark told the Independent
. "Our position is really based on the suicide rate in Colorado and the association between suicide, deaths by suicide, and firearms, and the need to intervene in our suicide rate in the state."
Colorado has the 10th highest suicide rate in the U.S., with 20.3 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017. El Paso County's rate is slightly higher, at 22.8 per 100,000.
Republicans opposed to the bill argue that risk protection orders don't provide due process and jeopardize Second Amendment rights.
The state senators from El Paso County split along party lines, in accordance with most of the rest of the Assembly. Republican Sens. Dennis Hisey, Paul Lundeen, Owen Hill and Bob Gardner all opposed the bill. Democratic Sen. Pete Lee voted in favor.
Republican House Reps. Shane Sandridge, Dave Williams, Larry Liston, Tim Geitner, Terri Carver and Lois Landgraf were opposed. Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder were in favor.
Here's a draft of the bill as it currently stands:
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