On January 1st, Colorado’s new “red flag” gun confiscation law went into effect. This hasn’t resulted in the immediate stampede of requests that some gun owners feared, but there have been a handful of them processed already. Three such requests, including two in Denver, were approved. A fourth request coming from the town of Limon in Lincoln County, however, was denied by the judge hearing the petition. This represents the first such denial of a red flag complaint against a gun owner in the state. (CBS Denver)
A judge denied a woman’s request to take away a man’s guns under Colorado’s new “Red Flag” law. The Limon woman claimed the man, who she had a relationship with, had threatened her with a gun.
Since the law took effect, the Red Flag law has had many gun owners seeing red. At least four requests have been filed since the first of the year; two in Denver, one in Larimer and one in Lincoln County.
Many gun owners, like Jak Gruenberg, despise it.
“Red flag laws just allow for harassment of legal gun owners,” he said.
Colorado’s new law faced a lot of opposition compared to some other states where such laws have been enacted. It’s not as broad in scope as the ones in New York and the District of Columbia, for example. Requests for gun confiscations can only come from law enforcement, family members of the gun owner or people “in a relationship” with them. That last category brought up the original issue in this case.
Due to privacy concerns, the names of both the gun owner and the woman bringing the complaint have not been released. But she’s identified as someone who either is or was in “a relationship” with the man. She claims that they had been in arguments where she was receiving “verbal and physical threats” with a handgun. Further, she claimed that the man had issues with both alcohol and marijuana. There is no mention of any previous law enforcement activity at the home or involving the couple.
That’s where we run into trouble with these cases. Perhaps the woman is telling the truth and has a credible fear of violence. But at the same time, we’ve long known that couples or spouses in tumultuous relationships or in the process of divorcing or breaking up sometimes exaggerate things or make them up entirely out of whole cloth to cause trouble for the other person. This is particularly true when children are involved and custody issues arise.
How are we supposed to know whether this was a valid claim? How is the judge supposed to know? If there was some previous record of violence in the home and law enforcement intervention it should have been an easy call to make. But if this accusation just surfaced out of the blue, it’s a he-says, she-says dilemma.
The way the Colorado law works isn’t entirely clear either. Once a complaint is made, if a judge approves the confiscation, the owner is ordered to surrender their firearms. There is then a fourteen-day period where the owner can attempt to disprove the claims, after which the judge must decide to either return their property or extend the order for another year. One unresolved issue is the fact that law enforcement was given no guidelines as to how they should handle a person receiving such an order who refuses to surrender their weapons. That’s apparently been left up to each law enforcement department to decide on their own.
For the record, Lincoln County is one of the areas where the Sheriff had indicated that they didn’t plan on enforcing the new red flag law. It’s further unclear where this particular judge stood on the matter, but hopefully, each case is being handled in a fair and candid fashion for both of the parties involved.