U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton isn't exactly embracing President Donald Trump's call for a federal red-flag law, but he isn't ruling it out, either.
Like other Colorado Republicans, one of Tipton's greatest concerns on any such law centers on due process, personal liberties and mental health treatment. So until he sees any actual wording, Tipton and others are withholding judgment.
"We must do a better job of teaching compassion for life, speaking out against hate, ensuring there are abundant resources for disturbed individuals who seek to harm themselves or others, and that laws and systems are in place and enforced to prevent high-risk individuals from accessing guns," Tipton said. "As demonstrated by the attacks (last) weekend, one an act of domestic terrorism by a white supremacist, the other a violent act from a mentally ill individual, many of these attacks are driven by different circumstances and motivations, making an all-encompassing solution to end violence difficult to achieve."
During this year's session, the Colorado Legislature approved its own red-flag law, which allows family or law enforcement to petition a judge for an extreme-risk protection order to have a person's guns temporarily removed from them if they can show that those gun owners pose a suicide risk to themselves or a threat to others.
To date, 16 other states have enacted similar red-flag laws, but all states have similar protection orders that normally are used in domestic violence cases.
The National Rifle Association has opposed all of those state red-flag laws, but not because the powerful gun-rights group objects to them.
A spokeswoman there said the group opposes them because they don't go far enough in protecting Second Amendment and due-process rights. In January, the NRA issued a detailed statement on the issue, saying it supports an extreme-risk protection order granted by a judge who receives clear and convincing evidence a gun owner presents a danger, but only if the gun owner is allowed to protest such a petition in person before it is granted. The NRA said that person also should be required to undergo mental health treatment as a condition of any order.
Catherine Mortensen, media liaison for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, reiterated that stance after last weekend's shootings and the president's call for federal legislation. At the same time, though, she repeated the same concerns the group has had all along.
"We believe that to safeguard the rights of law-abiding gun owners, state extreme-risk protection orders at a minimum must include strong due- process protections, require treatment and include penalties against those who make frivolous claims," Mortensen said.
Colorado's new law complies with all of the NRA's provisions save one, the gun owner in question isn't notified that a protection order has been requested and allows one to be granted without his or her prior knowledge.
To Republicans, that's a big hole in the law.
"Respecting due process is always a concern when it come to protecting civil liberties," Tipton spokesman Matthew Atwood said. "The congressman is also concerned with how well existing laws are being practiced."
That's why Tipton was the sole GOP congressman to sign onto a letter last month with four Colorado Democrats — U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow and Joe Neguse — asking for a federal investigation into problems with a combined federal- state background check system used in Colorado, one that isn't flagging as many unqualified gun buyers as it should, Atwood said.
Currently, bills are being drafted in Congress addressing a potential red-flag law, including one by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, an idea that Trump has embraced. Graham is working with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who introduced a measure last year that went nowhere despite being co-sponsored by two Republicans, including Graham.
Congressional Democrats have been generally supportive of red-flag laws, yet they also are calling on other things that generally are non-starters for Republicans.
"Washington should look to Colorado, where we have closed loopholes and helped prevent guns from landing in the wrong hands," said Courtney Gidner, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. "(Bennet) supports expanding universal background checks, banning high-capacity magazines, getting weapons of war off the street with an assault weapon ban, and taking steps to better address mental health — all of which have bipartisan support and could be voted on and passed immediately."
GOP U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, in a statement emailed to The Daily Sentinel, dismissed politicizing the shootings.
"Turning this crisis into partisan politics is not going to solve this epidemic. These are extremists who did horrible things and we, as a country, have to come together and find ways that balance our rights, that balance our protection of our communities."
Gardner did say in recent public settings that he wants to see the president's proposal before commenting. He has repeatedly said, however, that he won't support any measure that violates gun owners' rights.