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Colorado’s red flag bill heads to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk after final House approval

Confiscated narcotics found during a round-up headed by the Terrebonne Narcotics Task Force in Houma, La., July 29, 2011. More than 200 law enforcement agents and support personnel participated in the operation that resulted in the seizure of 698 grams of narcotics, 22 weapons and more than $50,000 in cash. Other participating agencies included the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police Narcotics Division, St. Mary's Narcotics Division, Drug Enforcement Administration New Orleans Field Division, Louisiana Probation and Parole and the Houma Police Department. (Terrebonne Narcotics Task Force/U.S. Army/Released)

A bill that would allow law enforcement officers to seize the guns of individuals perceived as threats is on the way to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk for his signature.

The Colorado House of Representatives on Monday approved a new version of the so-called “red flag” bill after it was amended in the Senate last week. The bill has been a top priority for Democratic lawmakers for two years. However, two southern Colorado Democrats voted against re-approving the bill Monday.

State Rep. Tom Sullivan, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the bill, celebrated the final vote in a statement.

“Today, the House and the legislature stood up and did the right thing,” said Sullivan, who lost his son in the Aurora theater shooting. “One of the reasons I ran for office was so I could tell all of you about my son Alex, who lit up rooms and was beloved, and so I could tell all of you about other victims and families of gun violence. This bill will give law enforcement and families the tools that they need to stop tragedies from constantly happening and save lives.”

The bill sparked objection among a number of conservative sheriffs and county commissioners who have pledged to support officers who refuse to carry out so-called extreme risk protection orders from judges. And the specter of recall elections has loomed over the debate. That’s because two state senators were successfully recalled in 2013, the last time the General Assembly passed significant gun-control measures.

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About a dozen states and Washington, D.C., have similar laws. A review of research on such laws found that judges are reluctant to issue so-called extreme-risk protection orders. However, the laws appear to have been effective in preventing suicide. And, despite critics’ worst fears, there has been no recorded incident of a false report that led to a person’s guns being taken away without merit.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams is among the most vocal critics of the bill. He told CNNthat he’d rather sit in jail than follow the new law. However, in an earlier interview with The Denver Post, Reams was more measured and said he’d work with judges to find workarounds to the law.

House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, told reporters after the bill was passed that none of the sheriffs who voiced concern reached out to him to offer suggestions for amendments.

“No one ever tried to set up a meeting,” Garnett said.

He also encouraged critical sheriffs to join a committee that will help establish protocols for carrying out extreme risk protection orders.

Not all Colorado law enforcement opposed the new law. Douglas County Sherrif Tony Spurlock supported the bill through the legislative process. The bill is named after one of Spurlock’s deputies who was shot and killed in 2017 when he tried to negotiate with a man in the midst of a mental health crisis.

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© 2019 The Denver Post

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.