Colorado Democrats plan to reintroduce controversial 'red flag' gun bill

Rep. Alec Garnett co-sponsored original bill
Posted at 4:33 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 21:05:32-05

DENVER -- With the balance of power shifting to Democrats at the state Capitol, House Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett said they plan to bring back the "red flag" gun bill.

"It makes sure that we get a policy through committee and onto the floor of the Senate to have a broad conversation," said Garnett, who on Thursday was elected to be the House Majority Leader starting next year. "I'm convinced that there were Republican votes on the floor of the Senate to pass this, but they sent it to a committee that it had no chance of getting out of."

Garnett cosponsored the controversial bill during the last session in an attempt to address gun violence and to try and prevent further heartbreak in Colorado. The measure passed the Democrat-held state House in a 37-23 vote but was killed by Republicans on the Senate State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee in a 3-2 vote.

Garnett's Republican cosponsor of this year's bill, House Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, was defeated in Tuesday's election by Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting.

"If we can put in an effective tool to help those people in crisis and avoid those mass tragedies, why wouldn't we do that?" Garnett said.

The red flag law would give family members or law enforcement a legal tool to raise a red flag and take away guns from someone in the midst of a mental health crisis while still protecting due process, Garnett said.

"You set in step an emergency process to intervene, and then there's a full hearing seven days later where the petitioner and law enforcement come together and talk to the judge in a full evidentiary hearing to talk about whether that extreme risk protection order should continue," Garnett explained.

It's a tool Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, believes could have saved Deputy Zack Parrish's life. Spurlock supported this year's red flag bill. His department knew the man who shot Parrish on New Year's Eve 2017 was in crisis and had guns, but they couldn't do anything about it.

"The 11 weapons he had in his house, he would not have been able to use because they would have all been secured," Spurlock said during an interview with Denver7 last year.

Spurlock said in a statement to Denver7 Thursday, "I do hope we can work together to pass a bill that will help save lives and support mental health in the great state of Colorado."

"The Parrish family experienced a tragedy that 100 percent could have been avoided," said Garnett.

The bill is now a focus for Garnett and other Democrats at the state Capitol, where major gun legislation hasn't passed since 2013.

"With tough legislation, it always takes a little time to move forward with something and I'm really confident that we can move forward with a strong policy this year," said Garnett.

Democrats now also control the Colorado Senate, where the bill died in committee this year. But Wist is gone in the House, and another prominent Republican who supported the bill, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, was defeated in his bid for the state attorney general's office.

Nine other states have already passed similar legislation.