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State Senate kills red-flag bill supported by local police

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May 9, 2018, 7:09 am

A state Senate committee late Monday killed a so-called “red flag” bill that had the support of local law enforcement and would have allowed police and family members to petition a judge to temporarily take guns away from mentally ill people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

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Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger testified in favor of the bill last week, and it made it out of the Democrat-controlled House 37-23 late Friday night, with two Republicans voting in favor of it. Then the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1436 on a party-line vote of 3-2 in the Republican-controlled Senate late Monday.

“Today, my colleagues in the Senate put politics over the lives and safety of first responders and members of our community,” said the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “I will continue fighting for solutions addressing the scourge of gun violence and improving access to mental health services to those in crisis.”

With the current session ending Wednesday, that means the bill named for Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III, who was killed on New Year’s Eve by a man in a mental health crisis, will have to wait till next year.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, said she’s glad the bill was at least introduced and that the Senate had a chance to work on it even if she never got to vote.

“This is a really critical issue, particularly death by suicide – something that we see a very high rate of in our mountain communities,” Donovan said. “We have some of the highest suicide rates in the country, and death by suicide using a gun is very immediate.”

Eight other states have adopted red-flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) – four since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February – and police in Colorado say it’s a necessary tool to disarm people in a mental health crisis.

“So if an officer comes out and has contact with you and there’s not enough to take you into custody for a mental health evaluation, or there is enough, and you get out in two or three days and there’s a handgun still sitting at their house, that has a high likelihood of getting used,” Henninger said. “This law doesn’t allow us to just take it. It requires judicial review.”

The law would have required a second hearing in seven days, at which point a judge could have extended the ERPO to 182 days.

Opponents of the bill argued it infringed on Second Amendment rights prior to the commission of a crime. Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek conceptually supported the bill but understood where the opponents were coming from.

“Does it give us one more thing in our ability to work with and balance people’s rights with public safety? Yeah. Is it a cure-all? By no means,” Van Beek said, pointing to larger societal issues. “It’s going to take a lot more than that with what’s going on. It’s much bigger than gun control and taking people’s guns. It’s a huge issue. It’s a cultural issue, the sense of entitlement.”

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, a deputy district attorney who voted for the bill in the House, said HB 1436 had the right legal protections on place.

“The bill lays out a process where one’s individual due process rights are protected through a fair and quick judicial process while allowing our local law enforcement officers and judges to protect those suffering from mental health episodes from harming themselves or others,” Roberts said.

 

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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