Despite an absence of any evidence that an extreme risk (red flag) protection order (ERPO) was appropriate, obtainable or would have prevented the mass murder at Club Q in Colorado Springs this past weekend, some media and politicos have hurriedly impugned the performance of law enforcement and called for an invigorated approach to seeking red flag orders throughout our state.
For some of the media, once again, being first is more highly prized than being accurate. It is clear that in some cases, ideologically influenced media conclusions are driving the “search” for truth. For elected officials, it is more of the same — never miss an opportunity to politicize a tragedy.
The mistaken assumption by the media and politicians is that Fourth Judicial District DA Michael Allen refused to pursue charges after the mass killer was arrested by El Paso County Sheriff’s (ECSO) deputies subsequent to a four-hour standoff precipitated by a complaint by the killer’s mother of threats and firearms. It is unclear where that rumor started, and it must be a rumor, because the case was sealed after its ultimate dismissal.
Legislative efforts since 2019 have resulted in sweeping and nearly automatic sealing of cases upon their dismissal — regardless of when, how and during what stage of the adjudicative proceedings it is dismissed.
In the absence of information, some media reports have concluded that the case was quickly ended by the DA after arrest, and that the failure of ECSO to obtain a red flag order allowed the future mass murderer to return to the streets and to obtain weapons without legal impediment.
Even Fox’s Tucker Carlson, nobody’s definition of a left-wing member of the mainstream media, took to the airwaves on the Monday evening immediately after the massacre to guess that “the local district attorney… did not pursue charges” and that because the killer was “never charged with a crime… his arrest record did not show up on background checks...”
Based on nothing, Carlson proclaimed “once again authorities failed to keep the public safe; they didn’t do their job.”
It is equally likely that ECSO arrested the killer, seized his weapons (completely predictable in that situation), the killer was placed on a bond that forbid his possession of firearms (standard) and was served a protection order banning him from his mother’s home, protecting her, and — again — prohibiting him from possession of firearms. Those orders would be uploaded to the NCIC/CCIC database — just like a red flag order would have been. Under those predictable circumstances, ECSO would have no reason or urgency to obtain a red flag order, which would have been redundant.
When and how the case may have been dismissed is of importance to any analysis here. If the DA dismissed it, when did they and why? Was it a recanting or uncooperative victim (mother)? A conclusion that they could not prevail at trial? If the case followed the normal course and was set for a motions hearing and trial, did an unfavorable ruling on evidence cause a dismissal by the DA? Or, perhaps, the judge dismissed the case. If so, why? That same judge would have also sealed the case regardless of how it was dismissed.
Until we know these answers, it is reckless and unfair speculation to suggest law enforcement failed the public in Colorado Springs.
It is also pure speculation that, had a red flag order existed, it would have prevented in any way the killer from obtaining the weapons he used in his cold-blooded massacre of the innocent at Club Q.
A red flag order only — and I emphasize only — prevents someone from LEGALLY purchasing or acquiring a firearm. If one or both of the parties to a firearm transaction is willing to violate the law, the ERPO is worthless. In this case, we — the public — do not know how the mass murderer got the instruments he used for evil. If the killer got the gun from a friend, relative, stranger, gun thief, ghost gun maker or non-federally licensed firearms dealer, then no background check would have been run and the red flag order would have stopped nothing.
It will not matter to the media, pundits and politicos if they are determined to have been wrong. Again. But it should matter to Coloradans whose knee-jerk reactions are not to try to shift any amount of blame from an evil mass murderer of the innocent to the law enforcement organizations who work to prevent crime and protect the public.
George Brauchler is the former district attorney for the 18th Judicial District. He also is president of the Advance Colorado Academy, which identifies, trains and connects conservative leaders in Colorado. He hosts The George Brauchler Show on 710KNUS Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeBrauchler.
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