Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor last week sent a letter to Colorado Senator Kerry Donovan, making clear his opposition to HB19-1177 as it moves from the House to the Senate in the Colorado State Legislature.
Additionally, he shared his concerns with the county commissioners and constituents during a work session on Tuesday, March 12. At that meeting, which occurred after the DCI's weekly deadline, the commissioners were expected to discuss the possibility of declaring Delta County a sanctuary county, exempt from the proposal should it become law. Several other counties in Colorado have already taken that step to protect the Second Amendment rights of their citizens.
Prior to the work session, Rep. Matt Soper (HD54) wrote a letter voicing "forceful support" for sanctuary status in Delta County. He said the bill, as proposed by "extreme, out-of-control politicians," violates the constitutional rights of the state's citizens and erodes due process of law.
Sheriff Taylor says he shares Soper's concerns.
When he first saw the proposed legislation, known as the "Red Flag" bill, the sheriff said he believed it could help law enforcement officers save lives by removing firearms from people who pose an immediate threat to our community.
"However, after further research, I believe this bill is overreaching without any checks and balances that would keep it from being abused by not only citizens but law enforcement as well," he wrote to Senator Donovan. "My second thought was this is just another attempt for the anti-gun movement to gain another toe hold on dismantling our Second Amendment rights.
The bill creates the ability for a family or household member or a law enforcement officer to petition the court for a temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO). The petitioner must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a person poses a significant risk to self or others by having a firearm in his or her custody. The respondent has the burden of proof at a termination hearing. Upon issuance of the ERPO, the respondent must surrender all of his firearms. If the ERPO expires or is terminated, all of the respondent's firearms must be returned.
"I truly believe my fellow sheriffs across the state would agree that there are individuals who live in our communities who should not possess a firearm due to severe mental health issues," the sheriff wrote in his letter to the senator.
"Mental health is the underlying factor and we as a society need to find a way to get people who suffer from chronic mental health disorders the help they need. This bill does nothing to address that issue. Once again, it is clear to me that this bill was written with the intention to infringe on the good citizens of Colorado and their Second Amendment rights."
In addition, the sheriff said, the bill could risk the lives of law enforcement officers directed to enforce the "Extreme Risk Protection Order" as well as innocent civilians and individuals suffering from a mental health crisis.
During a legislative update in Delta on Saturday, March 2, Rep. Matt Soper expressed similar concerns for the lives of law enforcement officers.
He said any attempt to remove firearms from an individual intent on harming themselves or others would simply make them even more angry and upset.
Throughout House hearings, Soper said he heard repeatedly, "If it saves one life ..."
"I see the opposite," he said. "I see retribution."
During the legislative process in the House, Rep. Soper said he offered a handful of amendments to address his concerns, but each was rejected by the majority Democrats.
He agrees a better option is to address a growing mental health issue in Colorado. If a person is truly a risk to themselves or others, he can be placed on an M-1 hold.
"It's easier to remove an individual than all the firearms that person has access to," Soper said.
The "Red Flag Bill" is also expected to be the topic of an upcoming Delta City Council work session.