Briefline

AG Weiser ‘happy to work’ on expansion of Colorado’s red flag law

By: - January 20, 2023 4:00 am

Attorney General Phil Weiser attends an election night watch party for Colorado Democrats at The Art hotel in Denver on Nov. 8, 2022. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told a panel of lawmakers Thursday that he will work with them to draft legislation to expand the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law, a stated goal of Gov. Jared Polis during the legislative session.

The ERPO law, also referred to as the red flag law and passed in 2019, allows certain law enforcement officials, roommates and family members to petition to have a firearm temporarily confiscated from a potentially harmful individual. Polis said in his State of the State address the ability to file a petition should be extended to people like district attorneys.

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“I know this topic of the red flag law may come back to the Legislature this session. We’ll be happy to work with you on how we can improve it,” Weiser, a Democrat who was recently reelected for a second term, told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. “We’re already committed to how we best educate and train law enforcement, as well as the public, about this important tool.”

The red flag law conversation was reignited after the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs last year. The shooter had been previously arrested after a bomb threat and standoff with law enforcement, but the case was dropped and nobody sought a red flag order against them.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder has publicly expressed opposition to the red flag law and has never filed a petition.

Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, questioned Weiser about the enforcement mechanisms his office has against local leaders who speak against enacted legislation.

I have made the point that this law is a highly efficacious violence prevention tool. If you are committed to public safety, this is a law you should use.

– Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser on the state's red flag law

“I believe we had an incident that created a scenario in Colorado Springs with the Club Q shooting,” she said, referring to Elder’s comments on the red flag law. “What is the role of the attorney general’s office to say you can’t pick and choose (laws)?”

Weiser reaffirmed that the red flag law is constitutional and said he has engaged with sheriffs who have criticized the law as going against Second Amendment rights. He said that of the 32 sheriffs who were skeptical of the law when it first passed, 20 now use it.

“I have made the point that this law is a highly efficacious violence prevention tool. If you are committed to public safety, this is a law you should use,” he said. “Where we have the biggest progress to make is to communicate to law enforcement how to use the law and why it matters. We are going to lean in hard to that work.”

Weiser also laid out some of his other priorities during this session and his second term, including asking the Legislature to update the state’s anti-trust laws, furthering consumer protections and finding policy solutions to reduce vehicle theft.

“We obviously have room for improvement. One area that’s been talked about quite a bit is that if a car is not worth as much as some other cars, (theft) may only be a misdemeanor. From an equity standpoint, there are real concerns that you’re in effect valuing the person who is wealthier more than another individual,” he said. He said that the district attorneys’ council and Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice are working on legislation around that topic.

Another strategy would be to add vehicle theft to the list of crimes that trigger the Possession of a Weapon by a Previous Offender, or POWPO, felony charge. State Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, a Pueblo Democrat, introduced a bill last week that would do that, and Weiser said he is a partner in that.

“There’s a correlation between motor vehicle theft and later recidivism that involves violent crime,” Hinrichsen told Colorado Newsline. “While I’m interested in tools to reduce motor vehicle theft, I’m also interested in preventing violent crime that involves individuals who have been convicted of a crime in the past.”

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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