Our view: Red flag law can save lives
Colorado’s controversial red flag law went into effect Jan. 1, and local law enforcement officials say they intend to enforce it, although there are still uncertainties surrounding the legislation. We support the need and intent of the law, and we think extreme risk protection orders, when used judiciously, are a tool that can be used to help protect residents and our community from incidents of gun violence.
In a nutshell, the law allows family members or roommates to petition a judge to temporarily take away someone’s firearms if that person poses a risk to themselves or others. A judge is then required to hold a hearing within 24 hours of the petition being filed to determine whether the request should be granted. A second hearing, with all parties present, must be scheduled by the judge within two weeks to determine whether the person’s guns should be confiscated for a year. If the order is continued, the gun owner gets their guns back at the end of 364 days. There are also provisions in the law for the gun owner to petition to get his or her guns back earlier.
Some critics of the bill claim the law will lead to gun confiscation, but we think those conjectures are exaggerated, and the requirement of two hearings before a judge allows for due process. In our view, the law was written with the intention of upholding the rights of gun owners, which is vitally important.
In an Aug. 10, 2019, article in Steamboat Pilot & Today, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said he plans to review risk protection orders on a case-by-case basis, and if he believes an order violates due process or threatens the safety of his deputies, he’ll file an appeal with the county’s attorney.
In that same article, Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said he didn’t expect having to enforce too many extreme risk protection orders. He said, in his experience, it’s more common for a person suffering from suicidal thoughts or mental health issues to be placed under a medical hold, which provides protection for the individual and others.
Although we generally support the new law, we acknowledge the pinch it places on law enforcement. More emphasis should have been placed on how the new law would be implemented and enforced at the local level. The legislation does not provide explicit criteria for what constitutes a threat, and law enforcement, not mental health professionals, are tasked with handling these cases, which could put officers at risk if the individual does not want to relinquish their firearms.
At issue: Colorado’s new red flag law went into effect Jan. 1.
Our View: This new law is well intentioned, and it has the power to save lives and protect people in our community.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Jason Gilligan, community representative
- Don Moss, community representative
With that risk in mind, it was good to learn that both the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department have implemented policies and training in response to the new law. And both agencies report their officers already have tools in place that help them de-escalate crisis situations.
As a country, we must do more to address gun violence, and Colorado’s red flag law is aimed at doing just that. It may not be a perfect law, but it has its merits, and we hope it will result in a safer Routt County.
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