The red-flag gun bill that passed the Colorado House in a 37-25 vote on Monday has triggered outrage among some defenders of the second amendment in Otero County.
On Monday, during the Otero County board of commissioners meeting, resident John Kyle confronted the commissioners and pressured them to push back against the controversial legislation.
As proposed, House Bill 19-1177 would allow family, household members or police officers to petition the court for a temporary extreme risk protection order that would allow the temporary confiscation of firearms from someone deemed to be a risk to themselves or to others. Petitioners would be required to submit an affidavit under oath and penalty of perjury containing the facts supporting their request for an extreme risk protection order.
Proponents of the measure contend the legislation would reduce gun violence.
The bill goes on to state that if an ERPO is granted, a review would be conducted after 14 days to determine whether the protection order should be extended.
The commissioners appeared ready to address concerns about the red flag bill - so called because a person's mental condition could raise "red flags" - when they showed up to the weekly meeting with copies of Otero County Resolution 2013-07: a resolution that passed six years ago and which reaffirms the county's commitment to upholding the second amendment
"Otero County's a little ahead of the game on what everybody's worried about," said Commissioner Keith Goodwin, referring to the movement by some Colorado counties to declare their intention to not enforce gun-control proposals.
But when John Kyle of Manzanola asked commissioners to vote to have Otero County join Fremont County (and, since then, Custer, Montezume and Weld counties) in the movement, the commissioners pumped the breaks.
"Right now you've got two counties joined in what they call the 'sanctuary county movement,' of sorts. And it is what is pushing back," said Kyle.
Kyle said he doesn't think the county's 2013 resolution does enough to repudiate the current red-flag bill in question.
"I think this is not so much about what's actually going to happen in the county, it's about pushing back against one party rule in Denver," Kyle said.
Goodwin stated that, personally, he's not comfortable pushing back against any party.
"I think the idea that we support Second Amendment rights and always have is the position that we can take and be solid," said Goodwin. "Sanctuary, if you read the definition of that, is not the direction that I would prefer to go."
Goodwin explained that current legislation on the books already allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms and that Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley has done so before.
"In a hostile environment, they have went and taken the guns. That's already been done," said Goodwin. "The (opposition) that I have with the law, is it doesn't go far enough when we're talking about identifying someone as 'hostile' or a 'threat to others.'"
Commissioner Jim Baldwin agreed.
"They're making it a gun issue instead of a 'help the person with mental issues' issue," Baldwin said.
Later, he added, "(The sheriff) says he's not going to do anything that's not constitutionally sound. ... Call me radical or whatever, but I'm very pro Second Amendment. I think what they're doing in Denver is stirring the pot. I don't like it."
Baldwin reiterated that he doesn't see the bill making much impact if signed into law because current law already allows police to confiscate guns from individuals in some circumstances.
James Bullock, district attorney for the 16th Judicial District, told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat that, under current law, firearms cannot be confiscated from an individual unless that person was involved in a crime.
"I know the red-flag bill that is in the legislature ... is tied to mental health. Those are the current issues, but there is no current law that allows us to go and seize weapons unless they're evidence of a crime or used in the commission of a crime."
Mobley, on his personal Facebook page, said, "Otero County has been Pro-Second Amendment before all of this debate about the Red Flag Bill. This is exactly where I’m at in full support of the Second Amendment, of Due Process, and I’m doing what is right and within the bounds of our Constitutions ... As far as I’m concerned, Otero is Years ahead of the game in being a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County!"
The bill was introduced in the state House on Feb. 14. It passed through the House on Monday and is now under consideration by the State Veterans & Military Affairs Committee in the Senate. Buentello, a Democrat, voted against the bill Monday, after residents expressed their concerns to her at the La Junta Town Hall.
Otero County resident Jody Bracy asserted to Buentello on Saturday that the red-flag bill violates the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments and that it does not implement due process.
"There is no due process in it," Bracy said. "If you've ever tried to get a mental health evaluation, let me tell you - be cause I know from a friend trying to get one for their spouse - it's at least 90 days to six months before you can get that evaluation."
Buentello told Bracy and attendees on Saturday that she wouldn't make a decision on the bill until she had reread its amendments and reached back out to district attorneys, sheriffs and police commissioners who have advised her on mental health and gun violence.
She also said she was concerned the red-flag bill could disproportionately affect veterans.