How Does Colorado's Red Flag Law Work?

New Legislation

A new law is hitting the books in Colorado in January, and a lot of people are talking about it.  The “Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act,” one of the various “red flag” laws emerging across the country, will allow a concerned family member, spouse, roommate, or law enforcement agency to file a petition to get a court order requiring a specific person to relinquish their firearms, or to prohibit that person from possessing firearms, if the petitioner can demonstrate that the person in question is a current danger to themselves or others.  Zackari Parrish was a deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office who was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 31, 2017 by a gunman with a long history of mental health issues, and the bill was named in his honor.bill 

In the wake of this ambush style shooting where 4 other law enforcement officers were shot and injured, the Colorado legislature passed this bill.  Gun rights activists and lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association vocally opposed the passing of the bill, while it was viewed as a huge victory for gun control advocates.  The controversy is still hot.  Some elected Sheriffs have come out publicly to say they will not enforce the law

How the Law Works

How does the law work?  The process begins with the moving party, called the petitioner, who files a sworn affidavit (under penalty of perjury) outlining why the party subject to the order (the respondent) is a danger to themselves or others.  This first petition is filed with the court ex parte, meaning the respondent is not even aware that this petition is being filed.  A judge reviews the petition, and if convinced the respondent is a danger to themselves or others by a preponderance of the evidence, will issue a temporary order that must be served on the respondent requiring relinquishment of their firearms.  Another hearing is then scheduled 14 days later, and the respondent must appear in court.  The respondent will have legal counsel appointed for them, regardless of their income or wealth.  The purpose of this second hearing is to allow the respondent to be heard as to why the red flag order should not go into effect.  The petitioner, at this second hearing, must present clear and convincing evidence that the respondent is a danger to themselves or others.  If granted, the order requiring no weapons shall last for one year.  The petitioner may renew the petition at the end of the year, but must meet the same original burden.  Also, the respondent has one opportunity during that year to demonstrate that the order should be terminated early.

Arguments Against

Gun rights activists claim that this bill infringes on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.  Some take issue with the fact that the guns can be removed before the respondent has an opportunity to answer.  Others don’t like the fact that the law allows for the police to obtain a search warrant for the guns to be seized without any evidence that the respondent has broken the law.  Gun rights activists  point out that there is also the possibility of abuse with the law- jilted lovers can use it as a way to get back at a former spouse, for example.

Arguments in Favor

Gun control activists praise the bill as a tool that can be used to get weapons out of the hands of someone who poses a credible threat to the community, even if only temporarily.  They view it as a way to smoke out potential mass shooters and as a way to reduce gun violence.  They point to the due process safeguards in place, such as the respondent’s right to be heard at a hearing, with court appointed counsel.

As with all new laws passed in the state, we will watch with interest as to how this law will work.


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