Colorado considers changing red flag laws after mass shooting at nightclub

A November 19 shooting that killed five and injured 19 at a Colorado Springs nightclub has officials considering changes to strengthen Colorado’s red flag laws, particularly in the self-declared Second Amendment reserve, where petitions for urgent removal of a person’s firearm are filed less frequently. frequently and often rejected.

Three-year-old state law allows law enforcement officials or family members to seek a court order to seize a person’s firearm that poses a threat to themselves or others. But the Q Club shooting underscores a fundamental challenge to it and other red flag laws: Sheriffs often refuse to use measures based on the belief that they violate their right to bear arms. Second Amendment.

El Paso County, the site of the Colorado Springs shooting, is one such place. According to KHN’s analysis of court records, it has the lowest approval rate for petitions initially filed in court under the law of any Colorado county where more than three lawsuits are filed. submit. Now Colorado lawmakers, like those in other states who have experienced mass shootings in recent years, will try to turn anger over the incident into legislative action to strengthen state red flag laws, including the ability to expand the group of people who can claim protection. quiet.

Shortly after the arrest of Anderson Lee Aldrich, the man charged with the Q Club shooting, reports emerged of a previous incident in which he surrenders to police after threatening to blow up his mother’s house with a homemade bomb.

Based on Related press, court records show that the judge dismissing the case said during a hearing that the defendant was in possession of weapons and explosives, was “apparently” planning a shooting and that he needed receive mental health treatment. Neither the family nor law enforcement were seeking extreme risk protection orders to ensure Aldrich could not use a gun, leading to questions about whether the November shootings could have been prevented if they had. or not.

Colorado’s red flag law, passed in 2019, has been used more than 350 times, with nearly 2 in 3 cases of initial protection order applications being approved.

Judges in El Paso County approved 11 of the original 53 applications, just over 20%, as of Nov. 22. Although El Paso County is the most populous county in Colorado, the number of applications filed is in Denver County, the next largest, is twice as tall. There, judges approved 91 of the original 104 petitions, or nearly 88%.

Violence prevention advocates attribute El Paso County’s low approval rate to a number of factors. Among them, the district declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary district opposed to red flag laws, and El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder was resolute Sheriff’s officials will not seek any protective orders, “unless there are urgent circumstances.”

To date, the only two lawsuits filed by law enforcement in the county have been sought by the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Analysis of national red flag laws shows that law enforcement officials are much more successful when they file petitions than when relatives or roommates of the suspect do.

“More than 90% of law enforcement applications are approved, while applications from family members, cohabitants or parents are approved in less than a third,” he said. Dr. Chris Knoepkea gun safety researcher with the University of Colorado Gun Injury Prevention Initiative.

It’s not clear why the law enforcement polish average is higher. It is possible that the police are more familiar with the legal requirements to deal with and have not made simple mistakes that could sink a lawsuit. Law enforcement may also have easier access to legal aid in filing applications, and judges may consider law enforcement officials more trustworthy than family members.

Second Amendment reserve statements by county governments or sheriffs can also have the effect of chilling petitions if parishioners misinterpret the largely symbolic gesture as deterring them. Search for a protection order.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was widely criticized for not applying for a protective order after the Club Q suspect was arrested and his gun was seized in June 2021 after threatening to blow up his home. his mother. sheriff’s office issue a statement in December said the suspect’s weapons had been seized and a mandatory protective order had been put in place, preventing him from purchasing more weapons.

However, the charges against him were dismissed in July 2022, removing the mandatory protective order. The case files were sealed, which sheriff officials said prevented them from using the case to pursue an extreme risk protection order. And there is no new evidence that would allow the sheriff to search, the officials added.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, said his administration would look into why petitions weren’t filed in Colorado Springs and ways to strengthen the red flag law.

“We are currently in discussions with local law enforcement, with state legislators, about the loopholes that exist in extreme risk protection orders and how we can better ensure that We have a system in place to keep people safe across Colorado,” the governor said.

capital floated the idea about expanding the pool of eligible petitioners and mentioned district attorneys as another potential group.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws on their books that allow different parties to file claims for protection orders. Law enforcement officers file most red flag law lawsuits, although the lines between filing groups are often blurred. Family members or others who are likely to petition often ask the police to file on their behalf, and some police departments urge relatives to let the police process the petition because of them. better at it.

Four states and the District of Columbia also allow medical providers to petition. But those still make up a small fraction of the total number of lawsuits filed.

“Medical providers see this as a tool that can help their patients, but they just don’t have the time to do it,” said. Lisa Gellerdirector of state affairs at the Johns Hopkins University Gun Violence Solutions Center.

Maryland is hiring navigators to help medical providers get protective orders without having to go to court on their own. That type of assistance can help other litigants improve their chances of getting a protective order.

“When people who apply for a domestic violence restraining order have an attorney, their restraining order application is more likely to be approved,” he said. April Zeoli, an associate professor of the Institute for Gun Injury Prevention at the University of Michigan. “These legal forms are not something the general public would normally fill out.”

Geller said advocates are pushing states to use money available through Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to increase education about red flags, both to make the tool more aware of the tool and to help law enforcement or other qualified complainants learn how to find them.

Colorado is accessible $4.6 million funding for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 and must apply for funding this month.

Florida passed its laws After the 2018 Parkland High School shootings, New York and Illinois expanded their laws following the mass shootings in Buffalo and highland park, corresponding. New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul directed by state police to expand the use of protection orders and create staff positions to do so. According to the governor’s office832 temporary and final extreme risk protection orders were issued in New York state in the three months following Hochul’s directive, compared with 1,424 orders issued between August 2019 and April 2022.

Gun violence advocates in Colorado expect state lawmakers to push for tougher gun laws in the upcoming legislative session. Democrats held a slim majority in 2019 when they passed a bill establishing a red flag law, limiting its scope. But one landslide victory by the Colorado Democrats in 2022 could provide votes to introduce more sweeping gun control measures, such as expanding red flag laws, a ban on semi-automatic weapons, or raising the minimum age for gun control. buy guns to 21.

Eileen McCarron, chair of gun violence prevention group, said: “Anyway, people wanted to do this before the Springs shootings. Colorado ceasefire legislative action. “But I think the shooting aggravated the problem, giving it more impetus.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Exploration, KHN is one of the three main activities in Vietnam KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a funded non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.


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