Longmont-area police leaders developing stances on ‘red flag‘ gun control bill, Weld County resolution

Police chiefs in the Longmont and Carbon Valley areas are so far staying silent on Weld County Commissioners‘ suggestion last week that the so-called “red flag” gun control bill may not be enforced, if it becomes law.

But Erie Police Chief Kim Stewart — whose jurisdiction falls partially in Weld County — said her department will comply with the measure, if it passes.

It would allow civilians and law enforcement to petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” for the removal of a family or household member‘s firearms from his or her possession. Petitioners would have to show a judge a “preponderance of evidence” that the person whose guns have been requested for removal “poses a significant risk” to himself, herself or others for such an order to be issued.

Consistent application in Boulder County

Longmont Police Chief Mike Butler declined in an interview to explicitly say whether he supported or opposed the bill, but mentioned Boulder County police chiefs, sheriff‘s office and district attorney‘s office leaders are planning a meeting to discuss how the “red flag” bill might be used locally in the near future, so that it is applied consistently across the county, should it become law.

“If this bill is signed into law, what it becomes is something that, given what we‘ve looked at in other states where it has been law for a while, it is very minimally used and it becomes a potential tool for us,” Butler said.

Right now, police can remove someone from their firearms by placing them on a 72-hour mental health hold, when officers deem someone a threat to self or others. But Butler said he cannot predict how much more often, if at all, a person would be separated from their guns if family members were also allowed to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order, assuming the bill enables such a system.

“At the basis and foundation of all of this is the issue of mental health,” Butler said. “Each community has to address mental health in a way that gets where we become more proactive with that particular issue, so people and families who are struggling with mental health feel their voice counts, their thoughts matter and we can eliminate a lot of the stigma around it.

“I don‘t think we‘re going to resolve these mental health issues through legislation,” he added. “I think we‘re going to resolve through proactive and compassionate responses on the part of the communities.”

Each town on its own?

Police chiefs Matthew Skaggs in Dacono, David Montgomery in Firestone, and Todd Norris in Frederick each declined to reveal their thoughts on the “red flag” measure until it is discussed among members of the Weld County Chiefs of Police Association meeting at noon Wednesday at Greeley Police Department. Mead Police Chief Brent Newbanks did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment.

“We are going to try to determine if we can come to a consensus,” Skaggs said.

But the association‘s president, Windsor Police Chief Rick Klimek, does not expect that to happen.

“It‘s an open forum to see which direction the organization would take as a group, or if it wants to continue to address it as individual agencies,” Klimek said, adding he predicts the association will leave it to each municipality to form a policy on implementing the bill‘s provisions, if it passes.

“I have diverging opinions on my own staff as to the effectiveness or the pertinence or relevance of the bill,” Klimek said. “… Weld County has always been a very self-determined location. People here are very independent.”

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle has supported the bill, but Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith this week successfully urged his county commissioners to to state officials. Weld County‘s resolution last week making it a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” supports its Sheriff Steve Reams “in the exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”

It also vowed Weld County would refuse to allocate government funds for building space or purchasing storage systems to hold weapons seized pursuant to the “red flag” bill, .

State‘s top cop not phased

Weld is now among at least a half-dozen counties, including El Paso, according to a , that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries as the bill moves through the Legislature. claims 25 Colorado counties through Wednesday have passed resolutions condemning the bill, and 11 more, including Jefferson County, are considering doing the same, with the town of Milliken northeast of Longmont mulling becoming the second municipality in the state to formally oppose the bill since Craig did so this week.

But Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has faith that even the jurisdictions that have passed these resolutions hinting they would avoid enforcing the bill will come around if it passes.

“A number of Colorado jurisdictions have passed resolutions denouncing this measure. As some sheriffs in those jurisdictions have stated, such resolutions cannot and do not override a valid judicial order implementing state law, such as one that could be issued under an Extreme Risk Protection Order law,” Weiser stated in a Thursday news release. “Our nation and state depends on the rule of law. All law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the rule of law. I am confident that when and if the time comes, all law enforcement officials will follow the rule of law.”

Josh Dones, an Erie resident and owner of gun safety training business who holds classes at shooting ranges in the Carbon Valley area, agrees with the Weld County Commissioners‘ move against the bill.

He said he worries the measure will force law-abiding, nonviolent gun owners to defend themselves against requests to remove their weapons without a proper amount of evidence before the situation is put in a judge‘s hands.

“I could say you‘re a risk to the community and if you‘re a gun owner, what if I‘m a vindictive person?” Dones said. “Accusations alone should not be enough to suspend someone‘s right to defend themselves. There has to be a thorough investigation. That‘s not convenient if you‘re trying to stop a mass shooter (before he or she carries out violence). But you can‘t go trouncing all over others‘ Second Amendment right. … It is a tough issue, but we can‘t blame the tool.”

A public hearing on the bill is set for Friday in the state Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The bill has already passed the House.

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