Colorado Senate passes red flag bill in 18-17 vote; bill heads back to House for concurrence

Senate president votes against measure
Posted at 3:08 PM, Mar 28, 2019

DENVER – The Colorado Senate voted Thursday to pass the controversial red flag extreme risk protection order bill on an 18-17 vote, with Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, joining Republicans in opposing the measure.

The final Senate vote came after about five hours of debate, as Republicans continued to characterize the measure as a power grab and violation of people’s constitutional rights and Democrats attempted to fight off what they said were mischaracterizations.

Democrats passed the bill without Garcia and with no Republican votes in support of the measure. Garcia told The Pueblo Chieftain earlier this week in announcing he would oppose the measure: “I took a hard look at this bill and while I strongly believe in its intent of preventing gun violence, this is simply not the right legislation for the people of Pueblo and southern Colorado.”

The bill, HB19-1177, now heads back to the state House so House lawmakers can vote on concurrence with the amendments to the measure that were passed in the Senate. The measure passed the House 38-25 in early March.

Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill should it reach his desk. The measure would allow a judge to order that a person’s firearms be confiscated if they are deemed a risk to themselves or others. The request for a protection order would come from law enforcement or family members. A judge could place a temporary order for up to two weeks on the person until it is decided at a hearing whether a full protection order is necessary. A full protection order could be approved for up to 364 days.

“This bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, and outside of this building, it is not controversial,” said bill sponsor Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. “We passed this bill and did what is right for our law enforcement, domestic violence survivors, our kids who just want to feel safe when they go to school, and the countless family members who have lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.”

The measure has stirred emotions at the Capitol for a second year in a row and led to a wave of counties – 29 as of Tuesday – declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuary counties” or, in Douglas County’s case, a “safe constitutional county.”

The declarations from sheriffs and county commissions have come as a direct result of the measure making its way through the legislature – one of several mostly-Democrat-sponsored bills deemed controversial by Republicans, who are now in the minority in both legislative chambers.

The disagreements over the measures have led to delay tactics from Republicans, who accuse Democrats of trying to ram-through legislation since they have majorities in both chambers and the governor’s office. They have also led to talks of recall petitions for several Democratic lawmakers as well as Polis.

Attorney General Phil Weiser, also a Democrat, testified in committee earlier this month that sheriffs who refuse to follow a possible red flag law should “resign” and said the resolutions attempting to preempt the law “cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law.”

But Polis did not take as hard of a line earlier this week when he discussed with reporters enforcement of the measure should the law pass.

“Certainly, sheriffs have the ability to prioritize resources with regard to law enforcement. But also, sheriff is not a lawmaking position in our state. It’s a law enforcement division,” he said.

But Polis also told reporters Tuesday he believed that the municipalities tasked with enforcing the law would fall in line.

“I know all sheriffs in Colorado are deeply committed to following the law without prejudice, and I’m confident our sheriffs will live up to the challenge of following the law,” he said.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.