The sheriff’s office in El Paso County, Colorado – the county where five people were killed at gay nightclub Club Q last week – has never taken action under the Red Flag Act of the state, The Colorado Sun reported.
The law, which took effect in 2020, allows law enforcement or a person’s family members to ask a judge to temporarily remove firearms from them if they are deemed a risk to them themselves or for others.
Colorado Democrats questioned why law enforcement — who don’t have a mandate to seize a judge under the law — hadn’t used it before in the case of Club shooting suspect Q Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was arrested last year after threatening to injure his mother with a bomb and other weapons.
The El Paso County District Attorney’s Office has not filed formal charges in the sealed case since, 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 in initiating a firearms seizure. However, he did not say why he never took action under the law.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
The law allows judges to issue the order if the petitioner reveals that a person poses “a significant risk of harming themselves or others in the near future by having in their custody or control a firearm or by purchasing , possessing or receiving a firearm.”
The Colorado Sun noted that it’s unclear whether the order could have been used against the suspect but, unless it was extended, it would have expired before Saturday’s tragedy.
Allison Anderman, senior counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the newspaper that law enforcement could pursue the order even if “witnesses aren’t cooperating and when criminal charges haven’t been filed.” .
Bill Elder, the sheriff of El Paso County, which county officials considered 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 going to sue them on our own, which means the sheriff’s office isn’t going to rush in and try to get a court order.”
The bureau noted later in 2020 that it would not proceed with the order “unless urgent circumstances exist and probable cause can be established … that a crime is or has been committed.”
Colorado, which is among 19 states along with the District of Columbia that have red flag laws, had the seventh-lowest rate of firearms surrender orders per 100,000 adults in those areas, reported the Associated Press in September.
El Paso County was one of dozens of Colorado counties that called themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries”; however, sheriffs in those counties have consistently filed petitions ever since, Kaiser Health News reported.
Colorado State Representative Meg Froelich (D) told Colorado Public Radio that the state legislature should consider filling “gaps” in the law.
“When there are deficiencies in enforcement, whatever they may be, is it a failure to follow the intent of the law, or is it a failure of the legislature to compel that element?” said Froelich.
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