Letter: ‘Red flag’ law has flaws
March 5, 2019
Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite did a column about the “red flag” law (HB 1177) and followed it up with a meeting in Avon last Sunday. This law involves taking firearms from people who are found to have a mental condition that makes it dangerous for them to possess firearms. This can mean suicide or murder.
The Colorado House recently passed the bill, and now it goes to the Senate. There are problems with the bill as presently written. A detailed analysis has been done by University of Denver law professor David Kopel and Craig attorney Joseph Greenlee. It can be found online by Googling “Complete Colorado.” At the bottom of Page 1 is a list of contributors. Click on David Kopel and you get his website, which features this essay.
Complete Colorado has other articles about this law in its Page 2 section, which can be accessed by clicking on a red tab in the lower middle of Page 1. One deficiency that I believe deserves more attention deals with cases where the court petition is filed in bad faith. Those who can start proceedings for an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) include family and those who have lived with the respondent (the one whose guns are to be taken away).
There is an obvious danger that some people would start proceedings for improper reasons. There is a section in the law that deals with this possibility, but I believe it should expand on what consequences can be imposed on those who file a petition in bad faith.
I believe the law should specify that anyone who uses this process for the wrong reasons should be liable for the respondent’s attorney fees, even if the government provided the lawyer, as well as other expenses, such as the cost of storing the firearms while the action is pending. Also damages, such as injury to reputation. Even if a respondent prevails in the end, there will still be those who view the respondent in a less favorable light. It could have adverse effects on trying to get or hold a job or rent a residence.
If you believe Kopel and Greenlee’s points or my concern should be addressed by the Senate, you can contact your state Senator, Kerry Donovan, at KerrydonovanSd5@gmail.com.
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