According to the Colorado legislature’s official fiscal analysis of that state’s new “red flag” law, which went into effect earlier this week, police and “family or household members” will use it to petition for gun confiscation orders against people who they perceive as threats to themselves or others about 170 times annually.
Additionally, the analysis assumes that 95 percent of those petitions will be granted.
Jacob Sullum of Reason pointed out that “Such a high approval rate reflects the due process problems with red flag laws, which take away people’s Second Amendment rights for a year or more based on vague standards and dubious evidence that judges are not inclined to question because they worry about the potentially deadly consequences of rejecting petitions.”
17 states currently have red flag laws, with Colorado passing its law last year. It is one of the few gun control policies that is gaining steam across the country.
These laws could be detrimental to the civil liberties of people who do not pose a threat to themselves or others. The ex parte orders that make up Colorado’s red flag law lasts up to 14 days. During that period of time, the respondent has ability to challenge the allegations going against him. Additionally, the standard of proof (“preponderance of the evidence”) is weak.
The risk of violence is quite large as well, because police arrive at the suspect’s house without notice to confiscate the firearms in questions. A 2018 case in Maryland, in which a man who was served a red flag order ended being gunned down by police, demonstrated how deadly red flag laws could be.
Critics of Colorado’s red flag law are rightfully worried given the anti-due process implications of such legislation.
“We want sensible people to have firearms,” one activist told Colorado Public Radio at a rally last month. “We’re not looking for people who are mentally incapacitated or whatnot. But when you talk about the red flag law, you’re talking about taking away people’s due process. Basically you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
About a dozen or so Colorado counties have responded to the red flag law by setting up “Second Amendment sanctuaries.” Many of these counties are in rural areas which do not care for the big city gun control preferences of Denver. Many of these sheriffs, such as Steve Reams of Weld County, have vowed to not enforce gun control coming out of Denver.
For solid blue states like Colorado, gun sanctuaries are very likely the only route for rural gun owners to protect their gun rights against state governments that have become increasingly aloof to their cultural and political preferences.