A 2019 bill that would allow Colorado judges to prevent people who pose a “significant risk” to themselves or others passed the state legislature without a single Republican vote in support.
The so-called “red flag” bill was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis and marked one of the most important gun reform measures passed by state lawmakers in the years following a 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado that killed and injured 12 people 70 others.
But the county sheriff’s office, which killed five in a deadly shooting at an LGBT+ club this week, has never once enforced the law.
The recordings in the Aurora theater during a screening of The dark knight rises remains the deadliest mass shooting in the state since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, when two students killed 12 students and a teacher.
But the 2019 law met overwhelming opposition not only from GOP lawmakers, but also from sheriff’s offices across the state — including in El Paso County, where five people were fatally shot and 18 others wounded in an LGBT+ community on Nov. 19. club in Colorado Springs.
A year earlier, the suspect accused of immediately opening fire on the club that night was arrested on felony threat and kidnapping charges, which were later dropped.
Not only has the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office not pursued a warrant to seize firearms from the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich – the county has never initiated a seizure.
Since the law went into effect in 2020, the agency has never pursued or initiated an order from a judge to temporarily seize a firearm from an individual deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.
Sergeant Jason Garrett, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said The Colorado sun on Wednesday that the agency has never applied for an extreme risk protection order — or ERPO — as outlined in the 2019 law.
Under the law, a judge can issue an ERPO if a petitioner — including law enforcement officials — can demonstrate that a person “poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to himself or others by having or controlling a firearm in his or her custody or by the purchase of, possession or receipt of a firearm.”
Data reviewed by The Colorado sun found that since the law went into effect, the state has received nearly 300 requests for temporary ERPO seizures and nearly 100 requests for extended warrants statewide.
The majority of requests came from law enforcement agencies.
Following the passage of the law, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners voted to pass a resolution to formally oppose the red flag measure.
According to the resolution, commissioners pledged to “actively oppose” the legislation, “take legal action when warranted,” and invite “all like-minded counties” to join the county’s opposition.
The commissioners also vowed against the appropriation of “money or resources to initiate unconstitutional foreclosures” and pledged to cooperate with El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, who personally opposed the law.
Sheriff Elder has issued more than 45,500 concealed carry permits to civilians and retired peace officers, according to the county, which noted that the sheriff has issued more permits “than any other sheriff in the state.”
More than half of Colorado counties have passed similar second amendment preservation resolutions.
In 2019, Sheriff Elder said he was against the law because “we’re going to take people’s personal property without due process.”
“The sheriff’s office is not going to run over and try to get a court order,” he told local NBC affiliate KOAA News.
It’s unclear if Aldrich’s case could have qualified for an extreme risk protection order in 2021, which would likely have expired by the time the Club Q shooting happened.
In June 2021, his office arrested Aldrich on felony and kidnapping charges after a woman reported that a person she said was her son “threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition.”
According to The Colorado Springs Gazette, the El Paso County District Attorney decided not to file formal charges. The case was subsequently sealed.
“There’s nothing at all, the case has been dropped and I’m asking you to delete or update the story,” Aldrich said in August in a voice message to an editor at The Gazette, according to The The Singapore Time. “The whole case has been dropped.”
A lack of cooperation from witnesses prevented a prosecution, law enforcement officials who spoke said The New York Times. Officials have repeatedly refused to discuss that matter publicly.
“These laws were put on the books precisely to address the dangerous behavior that often presages larger violent events,” Professor Shannon Frattaroli of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions told Reuters.
“Threatening to blow up your mother or the neighborhood that most reasonable people would agree with is a signal that some intervention is needed,” she said.