By: Robert Davis
Despite potential legal challenges and recall elections, the Colorado Senate passed HB 1177 yesterday, the state’s red flag gun confiscation bill, by an 18-17 margin, with Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) being the lone Democrat to vote against the legislation.
At the same time, Senate President Garcia determined whether the bill was allowed a vote.
HB 1177 would allow a person to petition a court to seize someone’s weapons if they deem them to be a danger to themselves or their community because of their mental health. A court would then conduct an ex parte hearing, in which those seeking an order against someone provides evidence that a respondent is a clear and present danger to themselves or a community.
The respondent is not made aware of the hearing, but nevertheless bears the burden of proving him or herself innocent. The bill does not require a respondent to enter into mental health treatment.
The bill requires law enforcement departments to search a respondent’s home for weapons if a court has found that they are a danger to themselves or their community. Once the court files the orders, the respondent’s weapons are confiscated for up to 14 days while court proceedings are conducted to determine whether the accused is a danger or not.
“Not only does this bill place police officers in danger, it hasn’t been shown to reduce suicide rates,” Sen. Owen Hill (R-El Paso) said.
"Colorado is one vote away from making itself an Orwellian state where cops can storm innocent people's homes and seize their weapons,” Dudley Brown, President of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, told Gunpowder Magazine. “If anyone thinks this practice will make anyone - police officers or gun owners – safer, they'll soon learn the tragic truth that red flag laws are -in addition to being unconstitutional – a disaster waiting to happen.”
‘Nothing but Gun Confiscation’
The legislation is heavily opposed in the state, including by the Denver Police Protective Association. About half of Colorado’s 64 counties have become Second Amendment Sanctuary counties, which allows a county’s sheriff to not enforce the legislation.
Sheriffs around the state, primarily in rural counties, contend that this bill places an undue burden on their municipalities to build more storage space for confiscated weapons. This could mean diverting funds away from public schools or infrastructure projects to fund the expansion.
“Today marks a sad day in Colorado's history,” Weld County sheriff Steve Reams posted on Facebook. “This issue is far from over as I’m quite certain this law will face much scrutiny in the courts.”
“Rocky Mountain Gun Owners applauds the Colorado sheriffs who are vowing not to enforce this law and the life-threatening violations it imposes on the rights of Coloradans,” Brown said.”
Other sheriffs, including Bill Elder from El Paso County, have vowed to sue if Gov. Jared Polis signs the red flag bill into law. Elder says he wants the Colorado Supreme Court to look at the due process provisions of the bill.
“I do agree that we have a responsibility to help those in a crisis,” Sen. John Cooke said. “However, this bill is not it. Let’s face it, this bill is nothing but gun confiscation.”
Cooke quoted Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis’ who said the bill is a poorly disguised attempt to confiscate the guns of Colorado residents.
“Nothing proves that more than what the Democrats’ argued during second reading, where they admitted this bill is not about mental health,” Cooke said. “And if it’s not about mental health, then it must be about gun confiscation.”
The bill now heads back to the House, where it’s been approved already, for approval of the bill’s amendments.
“Since the measure already passed the House, the bill is expected to be acted upon swiftly,” KDVR reports. “Gov. Jared Polis has signaled his support for the bill.”
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com or on Twitter @Davisonthebeat.