The following op-ed by Lori Saine and John Lott Jr. is excerpted from the Greeley Tribune
A new Colorado Appeals court decision will almost surely lead to the state’s new Red Flag law being struck down. The law allows judges to confiscate people’s firearms on nothing more than a hunch.
In 2019, the Colorado House rushed to pass Red Flag legislation without even a full reading and informed debate on the House floor. That violated the state constitution.
Unfortunately, many legislators don’t read the bills they are voting on. The requirement to read the bill is in the Colorado state constitution for a reason: “To prevent, so far as possible, fraud and trickery and deceit and subterfuge in the enactment of bills and prevent hasty or ill-considered legislation.”
The legislature not only rammed through a poorly drafted bill — they also ignored their own alternatives on the books in Colorado.
In Colorado, the alternative lies in Statute 27-65, which concerns involuntary treatment. All states have versions of this statute, and most have been on the books since the early 1970s. They allow police, doctors, and family members to have someone held for a mental health examination — typically for 72 hours. A judge need only be convinced that the request is reasonable.
These laws focus on mental illness, and they require that mental healthcare professionals evaluate the individual. If a person can’t afford a lawyer, a public defender is provided.
Judges have a broad range of options, such as choosing to monitor the individual instead of resorting to involuntary commitment. Judges can place a wide range of restrictions on individuals in exchange for not committing them.
But instead of utilizing these statutes, 19 states have now adopted Red Flag laws. Fifteen states passed them after the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Red Flag laws are overwhelmingly used in connection with concerns about suicide. But Colorado’s law, like those in other states, doesn’t require mental-health experts be involved in evaluating the person. The only option given a judge in the Red Flag law is to take away a person’s guns.
Colorado requires just a “reasonable fear,” which is little more than a guess or a hunch. Judges only have a piece of paper in front of them when deciding whether or not to take away a person’s guns.