DENVER — A growing number of Coloradans are pushing back against a bill critics say would take away constitutional rights. Legislators are requesting their counties become Second Amendment Sanctuary counties, and divisions of the Colorado Republican party are coming out against their own members who are in support of the measure.
Opponents of Senate Bill 19-1177, dubbed the “Red Flag” bill continue to grow. To date more than a dozen counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties,” or some version, and local towns and cities are starting to follow.
The Red Flag bill, officially known as the “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPO) bill, would allow a wide array of people to ask a judge to temporarily remove guns from someone deemed by the judge to be an immediate risk to himself or others. The guns could then potentially be kept for up to a year and possibly cause problems on a federal level.
Supporters, including perhaps the bill’s biggest Republican advocate in Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, say it will decrease suicide and homicide rates if those considered at high risk don’t have access to firearms.
Those against, including perhaps the most vocal opponent in Republican Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, say removing guns doesn’t address the mental health issues that need to be addressed, that it only removes “one tool” from their ability to inflict harm.
They also argue it violates several Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, most importantly, Reams and others have said, is the due process clause.
CURRENT BILL STATUS —
The bill, which has already passed the House 38-25 almost entirely along party lines, is scheduled for a hearing upon adjournment from the morning floor session Friday in the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs committee, Senate Committee Room 357.
In the House, two Democrats voted no with every Republican: Donald Valdez, whose District 62 encompasses rural, south central Colorado surrounding the Alamosa area, and Bri Buenetello, whose District 47 encompasses rural, central Colorado surrounding Pueblo. One of Buenetello’s counties, Fremont, was the first county to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.” Both Valdez and Buenetello represent portions of Pueblo.
Former Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo and Former Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs were recalled for their gun control support in 2013. Current Senate President Leroy Garcia, Democrat, represents Giron’s former district.
Rep. Dave Williams R-Colorado Springs told Complete Colorado the number of violations to the U.S. Constitution is troubling.
“Then we get into the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment,” Williams said. “Bills lay out the standard by which our American justice system is built on. But with this measure we’re going to the lowest standard of evidence there is which is preponderance of the evidence, and when you couple that with an ex-parte hearing, you as the target of the ERPO, you don’t even get to face your accuser. You don’t get to make your case. Someone can just simply just accuse you of something and they will pretty much meet that preponderance of the evidence standard.”
Not until 14 days later does the respondent get to go before the court and fight his or her case.
“But then you have to prove your innocence,” Williams said. “That totally upends our Jurisprudence. Democrats hate guns so much they are willing to confiscate them and violate Due Process rights.”
SECOND AMENDMENT SANCTUARY COUNTIES/CITIES —
After Fremont County became the first county to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” Representatives Lori Saine, R-Erie; Perry Buck, R-Windsor; and Steve Humphrey, R-Eaton wrote a letter to the Board of Weld County Commissioners encouraging them to declare Weld County a Second Amendment Sanctuary, which Weld did soon after.
Williams followed soon after with a letter to his county (El Paso), which followed suit on Tuesday, tweaking the name to become a “Second Amendment Preservation County.”
El Paso took it one step further, however. In addition to pledging not to “appropriate funds, resources, employees, or agencies to initiate unconstitutional seizures in unincorporated El Paso County and also affirms its support for the duly elected Sheriff of El Paso County, Colorado and collaborate with the Sheriff to refuse to initiate unconstitutional actions against citizens,” El Paso also vowed to fight the bill in court if necessary.
“The Board commits to actively resist the bill in its current and subsequent forms, including legal action if warranted, to protect the Second Amendment rights of all lawful gun owners in the state, and not just in El Paso County,” its resolution reads.
Williams said he fully supports the idea of “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”
“It’s clearly a gun confiscation bill,” Williams said. “It’s deceptively masked as a solution to mental health. And what’s particularly frustrating about that is mental health is not addressed in the bill whatsoever.”
Williams, who said all amendments put forth that would have added a mental health piece were rejected by Democrats. He said that leads him to believe this is just the first step in more gun control laws for Colorado.
“During floor debate, you actually had Democrats admit that,” Williams said, adding this bill was the first step in their plans to offer other gun control measures. “There justification is, ‘if we can save one more life, then it’s worth doing.”
Just a few hours after El Paso became the largest county to adopt the resolution, Douglas County, Colorado’s third largest county by population, followed. Commissioners there also tweaked the name, passing a resolution “Regarding Citizens’ Constitutional Rights, Public Safety and Mental Health.”
Yet, the wording included all the same aspects of the others, specifically that Douglas County is a “safe place for individuals to pursue their God given rights, liberties, and freedoms in peace and prosperity, and The Board of County Commissioners will fund the enforcement of only those duly enacted state laws that fully respect and support the Constitutional rights of our citizens, including their rights to due process, to bear arms, and to defend themselves from evil.”
El Paso Commissioner Stan VanderWerf called on the General Assembly to do the right thing, but urged Polis to intervene if the bill should pass.
“I would ask Gov. Polis to refuse to sign it,” VanderWerf said. “Because of the unconstitutionality of the bill as presently written. No governor or senate should willfully sign into law or pass legislation that are violations of a set of documents that protect our rights.”
As of Thursday, Rally for Our Rights — a non-profit organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights in Colorado — reports on its Website that 16 Counties have passed resolutions specific to the bill:
- Washington County: March 12
- Douglas County: March 12
- Dolores County: March 12
- El Paso County: March 12
- Prowers County: March 11
- Park County: March 7
- Teller County: March 7
- Conejos County: March 6
- Kit Carson County: March 6
- Weld County: March 6
- Moffat County: March 5
- Montezuma County: Feb 28
- Custer County: Feb 28
- Kiowa County: Feb 28
- Fremont County: Feb 26
- Rio Blanco County: May 21
Mesa County drafted an all-encompassing resolution protecting its residents’ Second Amendment rights in 2013. Rose Pugliese, chairwoman of the Mesa County Commissioners told Complete Colorado they will consider either affirming that resolution or constructing a new one.
Additionally, the town of Craig has passed a similar resolution and Milliken is poised to pass a resolution at its next regular meeting supporting the efforts of the Weld County Commissioners.
Milliken Mayor Beau Woodcock said he took an oath both when he became a Marine and the Mayor of Milliken to defend the United States Constitution.
“I’m not going to sit back and watch a bunch of people stomp all over our Constitution,” Woodcock said. He added that Sheriff Steve Reams “is exactly right. It doesn’t do anything for mental health.”
THE “R” WORD —
While recall committees are popping up across the state against Democrats, at least one Republican official may also be fighting for his job.
One group — Recall Governor Jared Polis — has nearly 16,000 members. Another– Recall Colorado –has initially identified Rep. Jeff Bridges, D-Arapahoe and Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Arapahoe, while keeping the door open for more. Additionally, there is a Recall Rhonda Fields, D-Arapahoe Facebook effort as well as a “Not our representative: Recall Galindo: House District 50 deserves better” page.
But perhaps most surprising is the effort against Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, which is being led by members of his own party.
On Saturday, the Douglas County Republicans passed their own resolution — against Spurlock.
The resolution which is posted in full on the Douglas County Republican’s Facebook page says in part:
“WHEREAS, the above Constitutional principles have been directly violated by Republican Sheriff Tony Spurlock by his support of HB19-1177; and
WHEREAS, Democrat legislators repeatedly cited Sheriff Tony Spurlock as an excuse to pass gun confiscation legislation;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the DCGOP again condemns HB19-1177, known as the Red Flag Bill, and officially expresses its profound disappointment with Sheriff Tony Spurlock for actions against the Constitution of the United States of America and violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Spurlock’s opponents have also registered the issue committee “Committee to Recall Tony Spurlock” with the Secretary of State’s office on Feb. 21, one week after the bill was introduced.
After Douglas County passed its resolution on Tuesday, Spurlock told The Denver Channel that commissioners would be “foolish to take money away from the office of sheriff because I enforce the law. Essentially, what they’re trying to do is extort me, in my opinion,” Spurlock said.
He also called them incompetent, despite the chairwoman’s extensive experience in law enforcement and dealing with mental health issues.
“They do not know what they’re talking about,” Spurlock told the Denver Channel. “Why would you tell a law enforcement officer they could not enforce the law because you didn’t like it? That’s craziness.”
However, Douglas County Chairwoman Lora Thomas has extensive service in law enforcement, mental health issues and suicide prevention. She spent 26 years with the Colorado State Patrol as a trooper and was the first woman to be elevated to Captain and Major. She was also Douglas County Coroner from 2011-2015 and has served as Chairwoman of the Victim Compensation Board for the 18th Judicial District, a Board Member for the Men’s Crisis Connection and President of “A Night with the Coroner,” a non-profit that raises funds for suicide prevention efforts.
Since elected to the Commission, Thomas has been working to improve mental health services for Douglas County.
“I was struck by sitting across the table or standing in kitchens with parents who had lost their children,” Thomas has previously told Complete Colorado. “They were left broken hearted all you can do is cry with them and say this is not your fault. We have to learn how to do a better job as a society in keeping an eye out for each other.”
That is what many of those against the bill say is wrong with the measure; the failure to address the actual mental health piece. They all urge the legislature to work together to address that.
“I will pledge to work with the Governor, or the Governor’s administration or any state legislator on things that address mental health issues in our state,” VanderWerf said, “because I believe there are things that we can do.”