Colorado last week became the 15th state to adopt a red flag gun bill designed to take guns away from people who may pose a danger to themselves or others.
According to the Denver Post, here’s how the bill works: A family member, household member or member of law enforcement can petition a judge to have guns confiscated from someone perceived to be a threat for up to 14 days. During that two-week period, both the petitioner and gun owner will make the case for the guns being returned or remaining in the hands of authorities for up to 364 days. The bill passed the Colorado Legislature without a single Republican vote.
That such a bill found favor in Colorado isn’t a surprise. It’s a state that has suffered greatly at the hands of gunmen determined to cause mass casualties.
Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado. And in 2012, a gunman killed 12 and injured 70 during a shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. Democratic freshman state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, died in the Aurora shooting, was among the sponsors of the new red flag bill.
The problem with the bill, however, is that like many liberal ideas, it sounds good, until you start taking a deeper look.
For starters, during the two-week period after a gun is initially confiscated, the burden to determine whether it should be returned is on the gun owner, not the petitioner. In other words, the gun owner is deemed a threat until he/she proves otherwise. It’s the exact opposite of how we conduct criminal trials in this country, where the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove a suspect guilty.
“When it comes to depriving someone of their rights, I think the burden ought to always be on the petitioner,” George Brauchler, a district attorney within the state, told a hearing in the Colorado House in February.
Brauchler isn’t the only Coloradan to have a problem with the bill. “A growing number of sheriffs have pledged not to enforce the law, and county commissioners are backing them in many cases,” the Post reports.
Said Weld County (Colorado) Sheriff Steve Reams about people who have a protection order issued against them, “I’m not interested in taking their guns into my office. Taking the gun away isn’t the solution. We’re taking an inanimate object away but not taking the person to treatment. In many cases, we could just be making the problem worse.”
Fox News reported Eagle County (Colorado) Sheriff James van Beek said on his Facebook page that the law treats accused gun owners like “criminals,” discourages individuals from seeking mental health treatment and ignores the reality that a “disturbed mind will not be deterred by removal of their guns. … We still have the danger of someone who may be unbalanced, now, angrier than before, and looking for another means … explosives, poisons, knives, car incidents of mowing down groups of unsuspecting innocent.”
The bill is a microcosm of why conservatives don’t trust liberals on the issue of guns. It follows the typical liberal line of thinking that guns are the problem and not the people who use them for wrongdoing. And putting the burden on lawful gun owners to prove they’re not a threat means it has the potential for all kinds of abuse.
Some gun control measures are, indeed, worthy of consideration. Some, like a national law requiring a criminal background check on firearms purchased at gun shows, make perfect sense. But as long as the left continues trying to shoot down the Second Amendment, many conservatives will, rightfully, refuse to give an inch on the subject. Nobody wants another Columbine or Aurora, but attempting to do away with a right many hold dear isn’t going to fix the problem.
Lew Gilliland is assistant editor of The Daily Home. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.