Stricter Red Flag Laws and Gun Restrictions Looming in the High Country?

Club Q Shooting Massacre May Spark Big Legislative Changes

Rick Langenberg

In the wake of the Club Q tragedy in Colorado Springs, which left five dead and nearly two dozen injured, big possible changes are brewing in the often volatile landscape of gun restrictions and the controversial “red flag” law.

Big questions are persisting since the shooting massacre in a LGBTQ club that has put Colorado and the Pikes Peak region in the spotlight, and the area’s stance regarding gun control. The area has responded in an unprecedented style with tributes to the victims and financial pleas for assistance. Locally, a special gathering was held last week  at the Church in the Wildwood in Green Mountain Falls on Nov. 22, with a conciliatory message posted on the church’s marque.

Still, following extensive media coverage, many locals are concerned that more restrictions could develop, as a much more progressive state legislature gets ready to take over.  Governor Jared Polis has indicated that tougher red flag measures could be coming.

“Extreme risk protection orders can save lives when utilized and we need to do more to ensure that these orders are used when needed to prevent self-harm and violent acts against others,” said Polis, via a spokesperson, last week.

Since the red flag (Extreme Risk Protection Order) law  was implemented statewide in 2019, it has had limited impacts, with Colorado lingering at the bottom of states that have passed similar measures. Locally, the red flag law has received a cold greeting, with Teller one of nearly 40 counties across the state that has declared itself as a Second Amendment Sanctuary area in protest of gun-control measures. The red flag law gives authorities the right to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or to others for a limited time, following a court order, which can only occur through the filing of a petition.

Very few red flag orders have been processed locally or even in El Paso County. On a statewide level, only 344 total  petitions for extreme risk protection orders have been filed since the law was implemented, which is a tiny fraction of what other pro-red flag states are recording.

In a previous ordinance, the Teller County commissioners endorsed their support for Second Amendment rights and expressed a skeptical attitude toward the effectiveness of the state red flag law. In this measure, though, they stopped short of saying law enforcement would not enforce court orders dealing with red flag-related weapon confiscation

But area law enforcement was united in scrutinizing this law. “As DA, I promise that those living in in the 4th Judicial District can rest easy knowing that their DA’s office will not participate in ‘red flag’ confiscations,” wrote District Attorney Michael Allen in a campaign post, according to a report in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell also was critical of the red law measure during the initial discussion stage, prior to its implementation.

No Changes Needed in Red Flag Law

In an interview last week, Teller County Commission Chairman Dan Williams said he doesn’t believe the red flag law needs to be tightened up. He echoed the barrage of support for the victims of the Colorado Springs tragic shooting. He cited the need to offer better mental health for troubled individuals as the best way to curb the onslaught of mass shootings

“Something was definitely missed here,” said Williams, in describing officials’ inability to take previous action against the suspected shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, who may have been involved in a previous bomb threat.

That said, he praised Teller’s growing increase of mental health services, specifically at the Aspen Mine Center and the area’s willingness to support the shooting victims and LGBTQ individuals.

“We are a very inclusive community here in Teller County,” said Williams.

And as he has stated at many local  meetings, the commission chairman urged constraint in social media posts, and expressed concerns about hate messages, targeting individual’s religious beliefs  or sexual orientation or age.

“Words do matter. I have always tried to work towards healing the divide.”

This plea for unity, though, may not work with state lawmakers.

As another state legislation session gears up for resuming, Williams and the commissioners may have to contend with the prospects of more gun restrictions, and a further divide between rural and urban interests. The state Democratic Party emerged as a big winner in the Nov 8 election and now hold the vast majority of the state House and Senate seats and occupy virtually every key elected position statewide. According to some reports, lawmakers are poised to take a more progressive stand on many significant issues.

Since the tragedy, many state officeholders have urged a more proactive stance regarding red flag measures. “This red flag law will only be as good as people are able to use it,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser last week. “My judgement is our red flag law is an effective and important tool, and the real limiting factor is a lack of awareness and comfort in using it.”

In lieu of recent events, that lack of awareness regarding red flag law measures may be screeching to a halt.