Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, one day before a state Senate committee is expected to hear the controversial red-flag bill, issued a plea of sorts to sheriffs and other law enforcement officials who oppose the gun measure if it is approved by the General Assembly and the governor.
The bill would allow a court to order the temporary surrender of firearms by a person deemed a threat.
“A number of Colorado jurisdictions have passed resolutions denouncing this measure," Weiser said in a statement Thursday. "As some sheriffs in those jurisdictions have stated, such resolutions cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law, such as one that could be issued under an ERPO [extreme risk protection order] law.
Our nation and state depends on the rule of law," Weiser continued. "All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law. I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”
Under House Bill 1177, a family member, household member or law enforcement officer could petition a court for a temporary "extreme risk protection order" if they can demonstrate that a person poses a significant risk to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.
A second hearing, to be held within 14 days, would require either law enforcement officials or the family to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the respondent is still a danger. At that time the person's weapons could be held for up to 364 days while that person seeks mental health treatment, which the bill says can be ordered by the court.
Once the temporary order is issued, the respondent must turn over all weapons to law enforcement or a federally licensed firearm dealer. To get those weapons back, the respondent must prove they are no longer a danger, using a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
Supporters say the measure would help save lives; opponents see it as an infringement on Second Amendment gun rights.
The website "Rally for our Rights" estimated 26 out of 64 Colorado counties have passed or are considering a resolution that would declare those counties sanctuaries, meaning they would direct their sheriffs to ignore the law if someone sought to obtain an extreme risk protection order.
However, at least one of those sheriffs -- Douglas County's Tony Spurlock -- has said he intends to obey the law. He has been a vocal supporter of the measure, both its 2018 and 2019 versions, despite being condemned for it by his county's GOP. He also is the target of a recall for his support of the measure.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver and Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, cleared two House committees and a mostly party-line vote on March 4 (two Democrats voted against it).
The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee upon adjournment Friday. In the Senate, House Bill 1177 is sponsored by Senate President Pro tem Lois Court of Denver and Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.