BROOMFIELD–As House Bill 1177, the so-called “Red Flag” bill, heads for its first hearing in the Colorado Senate this week, the Broomfield City Council on Tuesday rejected a resolution to support the gun confiscation measure.
The contentious bill the resolution’s sponsors sought to support would establish an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or “ERPO,” system to allow police to seize guns from those considered a threat to themselves or others, based on claims from police, roommates, and ex-spouses and other former romantic partners, among others. Critics of the measure contend that, among other things, it lacks adequate due process protections, can be used vindictively, and may actually lead to unnecessary violent confrontations between police and subjects of the orders. Advocates claim that Red Flag-style laws are needed to get guns out of the hands of people in mental health crisis.
The measure has already passed out of the Colorado House.
Several people wearing shirts from the gun control organization Moms Demand Action spoke in support of the resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting, while a Broomfield resident who described himself not as a gun enthusiast, but rather a Constitution enthusiast, spoke against the resolution, pointing out that the Red Flag bill violates the Second and Fourth Amendments, as well as “presenting serious challenges to the Sixth Amendment.” The Sixth Amendment includes the right of a person to confront witnesses against them, but the Red Flag bill allows for ex parte hearings initially, where the subject of the order is not present and thus can’t question witnesses.
Moms Demand Action is part of a gun control advocacy network funded by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Council member Mike Shelton, who voted against the resolution, said that he has due process concerns about the bill, as well as concerns that the law could be used in a vindictive manner from either a past roommate or spouse. “That’s really where this starts worrying me, because I know how the court system can tie people up with these things, how it can be weaponized against people,” said Shelton.
Council member Guyleen Castriotta voiced her support for the resolution, adding that the Colorado Municipal League and the Chiefs of Police Association support the measure, and that “it has bipartisan support in the legislature.” But no Republicans in the state legislature have signed on to support the bill, and the Republicans who supported last year’s failed version have all pulled that support from this year’s version, including 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler and former Rep. Cole Wist, who was a co-sponsor of last year’s attempted Red Flag bill.
Council member David Beacom asked if instead of police showing up at the house to take someone’s guns, if it might be easier to instead take the person in for a psychological evaluation. “Then he’s away from the guns, he’s away from any other weapons in the house,” said Beacom. “Whereas if you just take the guns, there’s still knives, baseball bats, everything else. I’m not sure we’re treating the problem correctly by taking the guns away when it’s the person who is the actor that is going to cause the problem.”
While fielding questions from council members, Deputy Chief of Police Mike Clement said of the potential dangers to police in the search warrant aspect of the bill, “Our preference, naturally, is if that person goes to work, we prefer to go in and take the guns while they’re not there and at work, and we’ll do the follow up work on explaining that as we go.” He also described for the council what he called a “very quick” due process written into the bill.
The resolution failed to get a two-thirds majority vote. Supporters of the resolution on the council indicated they would sign a letter of support to the legislature on their own.