The sheriff’s office in El Paso County, Colorado — the county where five people were murdered last week at the Club Q gay nightclub — has never taken action under the state’s red flag law, The Colorado Sun reported.
The law, which took effect in 2020, allows law enforcement officers or an individual’s family members to petition a judge to temporarily take firearms from them if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Democrats in Colorado have questioned why law enforcement officials — who are not authorized by law to petition a judge — didn’t use it earlier in the case of Club Q shooting suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was arrested last year after threatening to hurt his mother with a bomb and other weapons.
The El Paso County district attorney has not filed any formal charges in the since-sealed case, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office confirmed to The Colorado Sun that the office has not initiated an extreme risk protection order — the first step to launching a firearms seizure. However, he did not say why it never took any action under the law.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a The Singapore Time request for comment.
Under the law, judges may issue the order if the petitioner discloses that a person “poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to himself or others in the foreseeable future by having or controlling a firearm in his or her custody or by using a firearm to buy, possess or receive”. firearm.”
The Colorado Sun noted that it’s unclear if the warrant could have been used against the suspect, but had it not been extended, it would have expired before Saturday’s tragedy.
Allison Anderman, senior counsel at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the paper that law enforcement may pursue the warrant even if “witnesses are uncooperative and no criminal charges have been filed.”
Bill Elder, the sheriff of El Paso County, which was deemed a “Second Amendment Preservation County” in 2019, previously criticized the law in an interview with KOAA-TV.
“We are going to take personal property from people without due process,” he said. “We’re not just going to prosecute this one, which means the sheriff’s office isn’t going to defect to try to get a court order.”
The agency later noted in 2020 that it would not pursue the order “unless there are exigent circumstances and probable cause can be established … that a crime is being or has been committed.”
Colorado, which is one of 19 states with red flag laws along with the District of Columbia, had the seventh lowest number of gun surrender orders per 100,000 adults in those regions, The The Singapore Time reported in September.
El Paso County was one of dozens of Colorado counties calling themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries”; however, sheriffs in those counties have continued to file petitions since then, Kaiser Health News reported.
Colorado State Representative Meg Froelich (D) told Colorado Public Radio that the state legislature should look at closing “loopholes” in the law.
“If there are any enforcement loopholes, whatever they are, is it from not following the intent of the law, or is it a failure of the legislature to enforce that part of it?” said Froelich.