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The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has never used Colorado’s “Red Flag” law to confiscate firearms from dangerous individuals

A 2019 bill that would allow Colorado judges to prevent individuals who pose a “significant risk” to themselves or others passed the state legislature without a single Republican consent.

The so-called “Red Flag” law was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis and marks one of the most significant gun reform measures passed by state lawmakers in the years following a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater in 2012 that killed and injured 12 people 70 others.

But the sheriff’s office in the county where five people were killed in a deadly shooting at an LGBT+ club this week, officials have never applied the law.

Filming at 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 with overwhelming opposition not only from GOP deputies, but also from sheriff’s offices across the state — including in El Paso County, where five people were fatally shot and killed on November 19 at a Colorado Springs LGBT+ club 18 others were injured.

A year earlier, the suspect accused of immediately opening fire on the club that night was arrested on felony charges and kidnapping, which were later dropped.

Not only has the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office not pursued a firearms seizure order from suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich — the county has never initiated a seizure.

Since the law’s enactment in 2020, the office has never pursued or initiated a court order to temporarily confiscate a firearm from an individual who is deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

Sgt. Jason Garrett, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said The Colorado sun on Wednesday that the agency never sought an extreme risk protection order — or ERPO — as outlined in the 2019 law.

Under the law, a judge can issue an ERPO if an applicant — including a law enforcement agency — can show that an individual “poses a significant risk of harming themselves or others by having a firearm in their custody or under their control.” or purchase, possession, or receipt of a firearm.”

Data verified by The Colorado sun noted that since the law was enacted, the state has received nearly 300 requests for temporary ERPO seizures and nearly 100 requests for enhanced orders statewide.

A majority of the inquiries came from law enforcement agencies.

After the passage of the law, the Board of El Paso County Commissioners voted to pass a resolution to officially oppose the red flag measure.

The commissioners pledged to “actively oppose the legislation,” committed to “legal action if warranted,” and invited “all like-minded counties” to join the county’s opposition, the resolution said.

The commissioners also spoke out against appropriating “funds or resources to initiate unconstitutional seizures” and vowed to work with El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, who personally opposed the law.

Sheriff Elder has issued more than 45,500 concealed carry permits to citizens and retired peace officers, according to the county, who noted that the sheriff has issued more permits “than any other sheriff in the state.”

More than half of Colorado’s counties have drafted 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 be pulled over and trying to get a court order,” he told local NBC affiliate KOAA News.

It’s unclear whether Aldrich’s 2021 case would have qualified for an extreme risk protection order, which likely would have expired at the time of the Club Q shooting.

On November 23, Anderson Lee Aldrich, the suspect in the Club Q mass shooting, appeared in court via video link.

(AP)

In June 2021, his office arrested Aldrich on charges of threatened crime and kidnapping after a woman reported that a person she identified as her son “threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition.”

Corresponding The Colorado Springs Newspaper, the El Paso County Attorney’s Office decided against a formal charge. The case was subsequently sealed.

“There is absolutely nothing, the case has been dropped and I am asking that you either remove the story or update it,” Aldrich said in a voice message left for an editor at The Gazette in August, according to The Associated Press. “The entire case has been dropped.”

According to police officers who spoke to me, a lack of witness cooperation prevented a prosecution The New York Times. Officials have repeatedly declined to discuss the case publicly.

“These laws were written specifically to address the dangerous behaviors that are often precursors to larger violent events,” Shannon Frattaroli, professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told Reuters.

“The threat of blowing up your mother or the neighborhood, which the sanest of people would agree to, is a signal that intervention is needed,” she said.

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