Colorado counties declare themselves '2nd Amendment sanctuaries' in response to red-flag gun bill
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Lisa Marie Pane

the associated press In this April 25, 2018 photo, a .9mm handgun produced by Honor Defense, a gunmaker in Gainesville, Ga., is displayed. (AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)

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At least four Colorado counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in response to the red-flag gun bill passed by the state House on Monday and headed to the state Senate.

The bill would allow a judge to order guns be temporarily seized from someone deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Weld County, population 305,000, adopted its Second Amendment sanctuary resolution Wednesday.

It joins Custer, Fremont and Montezuma counties, which adopted similar resolutions in the past two weeks declaring their intention to not enforce gun-control proposals. Logan County introduced such a resolution Tuesday, and commissioners will vote on it later this month.

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El Paso County has not taken a stand on the proposed law, although Sheriff Bill Elder plans to discuss it at a news conference Thursday.

Sheriff Steven Nowlin refused to sign the Montezuma County resolution, citing his obligation to uphold the law, reports the Cortez Journal. But he said he supports the resolution.

Fremont County’s resolution was adopted unanimously Feb. 26. It says the county will not appropriate funds or direct employees to enforce a law that “infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

Under House Bill 1177, a family or household member or law enforcement officer could petition a court for a temporary “extreme risk protection order” if they can demonstrate that a person poses a significant risk to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.

A second hearing on the petition would be held within 14 days, requiring the petitioner to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the respondent is still a danger. At that time, the person’s weapons can be held for up to 364 days while that person seeks treatment, which the bill says can be ordered by the court.

Once the temporary order is issued, the respondent must turn over all weapons to law enforcement or a federally licensed firearm dealer. To recoup the weapons, the respondent must prove he is no longer a danger, using a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Supporters say the measure would save lives; opponents see it as an infringement on Second Amendment gun rights.

Sheriffs are divided on the bill. Sheriffs Tony Spurlock and Joe Pelle, of Douglas and Boulder counties, respectively, testified in favor of HB 1177 at a hearing Feb. 21.

Douglas County Deputy Zack Parrish III was killed in an ambush by a gunman believed to be mentally ill on Dec. 31, 2017. Pelle’s son, also a Douglas County deputy, was injured in that ambush but has recovered.

This bill will save lives, Pelle said. Spurlock said the law would make it easier for law enforcement to intervene to help those in crisis.

HB Bill 1177 is named after Parrish.

But other sheriffs are as adamantly opposed. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, saying he spoke for sheriffs in Larimer, Mesa, El Paso and Teller counties, testified during the Feb. 21 hearing that most Colorado sheriffs oppose the bill.

“I don’t deny that many citizens suffer from behavioral or mental illness,” but the bill doesn’t address that issue, he testified. If the goal is to protect the public, the effort should focus on mental health reform and not gun confiscation, he said.

Weld County’s decision did not go over well with Mental Health Colorado, which issued a statement saying Weld, Fremont and Montezuma counties’ officials “have stated they will not implement a life-saving extreme risk protection order if House Bill 1177 passes. We are disheartened about the decision of these county commissioners. Saving lives should not be a partisan issue.”

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