At least four Colorado counties have adopted a resolution declaring themselves a "Second Amendment sanctuary" -- with Weld County the latest and largest.
The counties are acting in response to the "red flag" gun bill that was passed by the Colorado House of Representatives on Monday and currently awaits a state Senate review. The bill would allow a judge to order guns to be temporarily seized from someone deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Commissioners in Weld County -- population 305,000 -- on Wednesday adopted a "Second Amendment sanctuary" resolution.
Weld joins Custer, Fremont and Montezuma counties, which have adopted similar resolutions in the past two weeks. Logan County commissioners introduced a resolution on the issue Tuesday that will be voted on later this month.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steven Nowlin refused to sign his county's resolution, according to the Cortez Journal, because of his obligation to uphold the law. However, he did state he supported the resolution.
Fremont County's resolution was adopted unanimously on Feb. 26. It states that the county will not appropriate funds or direct employees to enforcing a law that "infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
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 can be held for up to 364 days while that person seeks 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.
Sheriffs in Colorado are divided on the issue of the red flag bill. Sheriffs Tony Spurlock of Douglas County and Joe Pelle of Boulder both testified in favor of House Bill 1177 in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 21.
Spurlock's deputy, Zack Parrish III, was killed in an ambush with a person believed to be mentally ill on Dec. 31, 2017; Pelle's son, also a Douglas County deputy, was injured in that ambush but has since recovered.
This bill will save lives, Pelle said. Spurlock said the law would make it easier for law enforcement to intervene to help those in crisis.
HB Bill 1177 is named after Parrish.
But other sheriffs are just as adamantly opposed to the measure. Sheriff Steve Reams of Weld County, who said he also represented the views of sheriffs in Larimer, Mesa, El Paso and Teller counties, testified during the Feb. 21 House Judiciary Committee hearing that most Colorado sheriffs are opposed to the bill.
The bill is aimed at taking away firearms from someone considered a danger to themselves or others, Reams said.
"I don't deny that many citizens suffer from behavioral or mental illness," but the bill doesn't address that underlying issue, he told the committee. If the goal is to protect the public, the effort should focus on mental health reform and not gun confiscation, he added.
The decision by Weld County did not go over well with Mental Health Colorado. In a statement, the organization said that elected officials in Weld, Fremont, and Montezuma Counties "have stated they will not implement a life-saving extreme risk protection order if House Bill 1177 passes. We are disheartened about the decision of these county commissioners. More than half of all suicides in Colorado involve a firearm. We believe everyone should have access to this life-saving protection order no matter where you live. Saving lives should not be a partisan issue."
Violence Free Colorado also weighed in on Wednesday, claiming the decision puts victims of domestic violence at risk.
"This is an issue of safety and the Constitutional right to life and liberty. Therefore, we are asking these officials to clarify which laws they plan to enforce, and which they specifically plan to disregard? Victims deserve to know this information, and it is absolutely essential to their safety that they do," according to a statement from the organization.