Our View: Colorado’s red-flag law is reasonable, necessary | VailDaily.com

Our View: Colorado’s red-flag law is reasonable, necessary

It’s not about the guns — it’s really about mental health. That’s what the NRA and gun-rights advocates trumpet every time there’s another mass shooting in the United States or when confronted with the grim statistics of gun violence in this country.  

So, you’d think, given that rhetoric, that gun-rights advocates would be in favor of Colorado’s new red-flag gun law, which seeks to temporarily — not permanently — remove guns from mentally disturbed individuals deemed a danger to themselves and others.

Here’s how the law works: A family member or law enforcement official can petition the court to temporarily seize firearms from an individual who the petitioner claims is unsafe to be around guns. If a judge agrees with that testimony, he or she would issue an Extreme Risk Protection Order and police would go to the home and remove the guns. After 14 days, the person who has had their guns taken could appear in court — with guaranteed legal counsel — and make the case for why he or she should get their weapons back. The judge then must rule whether to extend the seizure and prevent the person from purchasing more guns for up to 364 days.

What this law essentially amounts to is a 14-day timeout for individuals who potentially might kill themselves or shoot others. Supporters of the bill, including local Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts, refer to it as a “suicide prevention bill” more than anything else.

And mental illness, as we know all too well in Eagle County, is not a static condition — which is why a two-week timeout is a reasonable, logical approach to curbing gun violence.

But, as you might expect, there’s nothing reasonable when it comes to the toxic debate on gun control.

Opponents of the new law say it’s unconstitutional, that it lacks due process for the accused and that it infringes on personal property rights. Supporters say that an Extreme Risk Protection Order law, which 13 other states have enacted, is a small, actionable step to prevent future gun tragedies.

Is the law perfect? Will it be able to prevent another mass shooting or every suicide by gun in Colorado? Absolutely not on both counts. But it’s certainly a worthy choice over the alternative, which is to do nothing.

And doing nothing in a state where we’ve had not one but two mass shootings and one of the highest suicide rates in the nation is flat-out unacceptable.

Twenty years ago this week, here in Colorado, the national narrative on gun violence changed in the course of a day when two students killed 13 others at Columbine High School before turning their guns on themselves. But Columbine failed to change anything when it comes to gun control in this country. In fact, it’s the opposite. The data from Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun death statistics, bears that out. As does this one simple statistic: Columbine, which was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at the time, no longer ranks in the top 10 in terms of mass shootings in the country.

This, despite numerous polls that show the majority of Americans support stricter gun laws.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger testified in favor of the bill, but Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, who initially expressed tepid support for such a measure last year, came out in opposition of the new law with a 3,100-plus word Facebook post. Van Beek, among other things, said the law “is like putting a Band-Aid on the probability of a wound and not allowing its removal until an injury has occurred.” He went on to write that the “entire process is ludicrous.”

No, what’s ludicrous is to let the cycle of gun violence continue to go unchecked.

We need saner gun laws that reflect the grim realities of gun violence and mental illness in our state, not the same tired rhetoric about liberty, personal property and the right to bear arms that’s unconnected to a “well-regulated militia.” Especially in Eagle County, which is among the western mountain communities that are now being labeled the “suicide belt” and where we lost 17 people to suicide in 2018, up 183% from 2016. And especially in Colorado, where we know the cost of gun violence all too well from the mass shootings at Columbine and the AMC 16 movie theater in Aurora.

This new law reflects that reality and is a reasonable step in the right direction.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Ad Director Holli Snyder, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Business Editor Scott Miller.