Letter: Grand sheriff needs to respect Red Flag Law
The Red Flag Law was passed in Colorado in April of this year and will be enacted in 2020. I do not understand why the top law enforcement officer in Grand County has in advance chosen to disregard it.
It would be the same as if a Colorado resident chose not to follow one of the state’s laws. This law is not a “slippery slope” affront on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, as I assume you and many of your fellow sheriffs might suggest.
It is common sense gun legislation that would temporarily take firearms away from an individual who is deemed mentally disturbed with a verifiable increased risk of hurting themselves or others. Nearly 40,000 Americans died from gun violence in 2017 — the latest stat from the Centers for Disease Control — with 60% of those deaths being suicide. If the RFL were enforced, think of the lives that could be saved, even if it’s only one in Grand County.
Imagine being a family member with a loved one who is contemplating suicide, knowing that he or she has access to a firearm. Shouldn’t there be a mechanism in place to prevent access to that firearm and get the help needed rather than risk an avoidable tragedy?
Fact: the chances of a person successfully committing suicide with a gun are greater than 80% vs. less than 2% via drugs and poison, or sharp objects.
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Imagine a police officer receiving a report that a student has discussed harming his classmates. Shouldn’t there be a law in place that allows law enforcement a way to intervene while investigating the situation? This is not a “slippery slope,” but a common sense approach to a much wider issue in addressing gun safety — and a moral imperative that you have already chosen to ignore.
The nonpartisan Colorado Legislative Council Staff estimates that 170 Coloradans would have their guns temporarily taken each year using the Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) arm of the Red Flag Law. That calculation is based on the frequency of red flag gun seizures in some of the 16 states that have enacted similar laws.
The legislature’s projection for Colorado assumes a seizure rate of three gun owners per 100,000 residents. Other states where the RFL has been enacted vary from a low of one seizure per 100,000 residents in California to a high of 20 seizures per 100,000 residents in Maryland. Based on these two extremes, it is estimated that Colorado may enforce 1,141 seizures per year. A judge would be appointed to make an independent determination on the merits of each case, thus removing any bias and providing the necessary due process required under the Second Amendment.
Before the Parkland shooting in February 2018, only five states had enacted the Red Flag Law. Since then, 12 additional states have passed it, including Colorado. In a 2018 poll, 85% of Americans support the law. Even the National Rifle Association that typically opposes efforts to restrict access to guns, has said it supports such state protection orders, as long as the laws include certain provisions to ensure gun owners’ rights i.e., due process. A study by Psychiatric Services involving the effectiveness of extreme risk protection laws in Indiana and Connecticut from 1981–2015 found that gun-related suicides fell 7.5% and 13.7% in the 10 years after enactment in Indiana and Connecticut, respectively.
So sheriff, it seems that you have fallen in line with many other county sheriffs, perhaps through peer pressure and/or to satisfy the gun owner electorate that you believe helped elect you.
Well my wife and I, who are not gun owners but respect and support the tenants of the Second Amendment, voted for you as the best choice to serve and protect the citizens of Grand County. In our view, you are shirking this primary responsibility and at the same time are breaking the law. By making Grand County a gun sanctuary, you are making us less safe. In fact, your disregard for the RFL could lead to someone’s death and that, sir, you would have to live with.
— Robert Spaet, Granby
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