With a little more than a month to go before new gun laws take effect in Colorado, law enforcement agencies locally and across the state are finalizing their approaches to enforcing legislation that some of them opposed as it was being drafted.
The extreme risk protection order (ERPO), also known as red flag laws, passed in this year's Democrat-controlled Legislature. The measure, HB1177, allows law enforcement or family members of troubled gun owners to petition a judge to have those weapons removed under extreme circumstances, but only if the gun owner is deemed a risk to themselves or others.
Several county officials across the state, including some on the Western Slope, spoke against the bill as it was being debated. Some counties went so far as declaring themselves "Second Amendment Sanctuaries," such as Weld County.
In March, the Weld County Commissioners became a Second Amendment Sanctuary in a resolution that declared the board supported the Weld County Sheriff to "exercise his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law," according to the Greeley Tribune.
Other counties, such as Garfield and Delta counties, merely passed resolutions saying they support the Second Amendment, but stopping short of saying they won't enforce the new law.
Mesa County Commissioners in March sent a letter in opposition of the bill to Senate President Leroy Garcia, the only Democrat to vote against the bill in the Colorado Senate. Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis spoke out against the bill in March. In a Facebook post, Lewis said he wanted to prevent the bill from becoming law.
"I could write pages on all the reasons this bill does not make sense and why it will not make Colorado safer," he wrote.
Though he still believes the bill is flawed, he will work to enforce it, he told the Daily Sentinel this week.
His agency is getting policies and trainings in place so that everyone is on the same page when it becomes law on Jan. 1.
Lewis described the bill as "very regimented" and said the language is pretty clear about the time period of when these cases must go to court.
The bill states the court must hold a temporary ERPO hearing the day the petition is filed or on the court day immediately following the day the petition is filed.
After issuance of a temporary ERPO, the court must schedule a second hearing no later than 14 days following the issuance to determine whether the issuance of a continuing ERPO is warranted. Colorado is not alone in adopting the legislation. More than 10 other states have some form of the legislation on the bookes, including California and Florida.
Lewis said the Colorado law requires every law enforcement agency to adopt a model policy for dealing with red flag cases by Dec. 31.
"We are absolutely doing that now," he said.
He said the agency will train personnel on filing the civil orders in these cases all the way through how to go through the court process.
According to Lewis, training Sheriff's Office personnel on how new legislation will impact their job is a yearly function of every law enforcement agency across the county. This week alone he had 20 pages worth legislation on his desk "that changes in some way what we do."