By: Robert Davis
The Colorado Senate advanced the state’s controversial red flag gun confiscation bill last week after 12 hours of debate and amid infighting among Republicans and Democrats over the way the legislation is rapidly moving through the legislative body.
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.
Republicans Making Their Voices Heard
Democrats hold a 19-16 majority in the Senate, forcing Republicans to get creative in their means of being heard during debate. They’ve been forced to utilize some unorthodox methods to slow down the Democrats’ break-neck attempt to ram this bill through the legislature. Dems, for their part, have charged Republicans with obstructionism.
“To be perfectly clear, I think this body should operate within the rules,” Sen. Jim Smallwood (R-Arapahoe) said during a hearing. “So, when I receive an email saying ‘these are the rules’, and I operate off of those, I think that I should be able to act in good faith on that information.”
Smallwood was referring to a two-sentence email sent from one of Senate President Leroy Garcia’s (D-Pueblo) senior aides asking senators to maintain decorum and respect for the body’s rules in regard to debate.
“It was made clear a few weeks ago that some in the minority do not agree with all of the decisions of the president,” Garcia told the body. “Instead, we should rely on the constitution and the rules governing this body to guide our debates.”
Garcia was referring to a lengthy debate in mid-March in which Republicans asked for HB 1172, a 2,000-page bill, to be read at length. Democrats used multiple computers to read the bill at 650 words per minute. A Denver judge ruled that Democrats violated the state constitution by doing so.
On two consecutive days, Sen. Owen Hill (R-El Paso) asked the body to read the 33-page red flag bill, along with the Senate journal, after lengthy debate.
Denver Police Union Joins Opposition
A growing number of counties in Colorado are declaring themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” and several sheriffs have said the red flag bill violates their oaths to uphold the Constitution, and they will not enforce it.
The Denver Police Protective Association said in a press release published by KDVR:
“We stand with our members, sheriffs, and law-abiding citizens who oppose this legislation. We encourage our elected officials to continue the conversation and include all stakeholders as we strive to keep our communities safe.”
So far, Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) has not stated how he will vote. Even if he votes against, Republicans would still need one more Democrat to cast a ‘no’ vote in order to defeat the measure.
A second vote Friday evening followed hours of debate on the Second Amendment and due process on the Senate floor. If it passes a third vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate, it will return to the House for consideration of the amendments.
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.