Colorado Democrats Introduce Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill

Feb 15, 2019

Flanked by sheriffs and gun safety advocates, Democratic lawmakers unveiled an extreme risk protection order bill — a measure aimed at reducing gun violence — at a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

"We're on the clock right now folks," Rep. Tom Sullivan (D), whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, said. "... If we keep talking about it, people are going to keep dying and this is a simple thing to do to save lives."

The bill would allow a family member or a law enforcement officer to petition a judge for an order to remove firearms from someone in crisis.

The gun rights group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), responded immediately to the news, calling the bill "gun confiscation" and asking supporters to sign a petition against it.

At the end of last year's legislative session, a similar bill was introduced, with similar reaction from RMGO. The legislation had republican co-sponsorship but died in committee.

At this week's press conference, a reporter asked if lawmakers were disappointed by the lack of Republican co-sponsorship on the 2019 bill.

"I am hopeful," Rep. Sullivan said. "I am now sitting two rows behind them. I'm sitting behind them each and every day now for the next 80-plus days that we're here. If they have questions for me, if they have concerns about this, walk over and speak to me."

Lawmakers backing the legislation described a few key differences between this year's bill and last year's.

  • Under the 2019 bill, first there is an immediate hearing either in-person or by phone. If the judge decides to issue a temporary extreme risk order, a second hearing must be scheduled within 14 days to determine if the order should be extended. Under last year's bill, that hearing had to happen within seven days.

  • If the temporary order is extended, the respondent, meaning the person who is the subject of the order, can be prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm for up to 364 days. Previously, the limit was 182 days.

  • The new bill also requires that the court provide a lawyer to represent the respondent at the second hearing.

At least 13 states and the District of Columbia have extreme risk-type legislation on the books. In communities across the country, these laws are often used as suicide-prevention tools.

For example, Connecticut enacted an extreme risk-type law in 1999. State records show that the measure is used in all kinds of situations: violent threats against school officials, coworkers, wives, girlfriends, children and especially in cases of self-harm. In the first 10 years the law was in place, in over half of all cases the complaint that initiated the process focused on the risk of suicide.