Colorado's so-called "red flag" bill will proceed to the Senate after the state House voted Monday to approve it, largely along party lines.
The vote on House Bill 1177, which would allow a judge to order the removal of firearms from those deemed a risk to themselves or to others, was 38-25, with two Democrats — Reps. Bri Buentello of Pueblo and Don Valdez of La Jara — voting with Republicans.
The vote came after nearly 13 hours of debate Friday on the measure. During that debate Republicans attempted to gut the bill and Democrats offered emotional testimony on their own experiences gun violence.
The House debated the bill for another two hours on Monday.
The most dramatic testimony came from Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, whose son, Alex, was murdered in the Aurora theater mass shooting in 2012.
"I worked my tail off to get myself down here" so that he could explain what it's like to go through "the rest of your life without one of your children there ... [and] to ask every one of you to reach inside of yourselves, take a look at my broken heart" and vote in favor of the bill, Sullivan said.
Democratic Rep. Daneya Esgar sobbed as she described her own experience with domestic violence and a mentally ill partner who once held a gun to her head.
The gun jammed, she said through tears.
"It's the only reason I'm here today," she said.
Republicans on Friday offered one amendment after another, with all but one rejected.
The one accepted was submitted by Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone, to require that telephone hearings be recorded and provided to the respondent prior to the issuance of the order, known as an extreme risk protection order. (ERPO).
House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver, one of the bill's main sponsors, offered four other amendments adopted by the House.
One states that if the petitioner comes from law enforcement, that the family is notified about the order, as well as any at-risk third parties.
The notice "must include referrals to appropriate resources, including domestic violence, behavioral health and counseling resources," the amendment stated.
That's in addition to other mental health provisions in the bill, including that the court must consider whether the respondent is in need of mental health services, including a court-ordered evaluation that could result in court-ordered mental health treatment and further evaluation.
The bill was also amended to state that anyone subjected to a temporary ERPO that was false or malicious would be entitled to actual damages, attorneys fees and any other costs.
Republicans, including House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, continued to claim the bill would result in damage to the reputation and lives of the respondents.
House Bill 1177 opens up "a Pandora’s box to individuals, partners in a one-night stand [who] can urge a judge to intervene. Some will do it to ruin reputations," he claimed.
It also "opens the door to official abuse and personal vendettas that we know from our history are all too real and too likely to occur," Neville stated. It's "a radical departure from the American tradition of fairness. We get secret hearings, hearsay evidence, rush to judgment, confiscation of private property, all based on the fear that person might commit a crime."
Fellow Republican Rep. Mark Baisley of Roxborough Park continued to hammer Monday on what he claims is the lack of due process in a "sloppily written" bill.
When someone is first turned in as a potential risk, they must immediately surrender all firearms and concealed carry permit, and the hearing will be held to determine if the order should be issued, he said.
"That's one of many instances of constitutional conflict in this bill," Baisley said, adding that the bill does nothing for those with mental illness.
The reaction is not to give them care but to seize their weapons and permit and place them under a 72-hour hold. If the bill really is a mental health response, it needs to look a whole lot different, he said.
Democratic Rep. Mike Weissman of Aurora pointed to how the red-flag law has been viewed in other states. Two — red Indiana and blue Connecticut — have implemented similar laws that have withstood constitutional challenges, he said. Five Republican governors have signed red-flag bills into law.
He also pointed to a 2008 US Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which stated that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and is subject to regulation.
The court has since denied at least 88 more cases on the Second Amendment, Weissman said. That shows a court not in a hurry to reconsider that opinion, he added.
"I refuse to do nothing today," he said.