Colorado Prepares For Final Vote On Red Flag Law As Several Counties Say They Won’t Enforce It

As the U.S. Senate holds gun control hearings, Colorado legislators are pushing forward with their own plan to remove guns from people who are deemed unsafe to themselves or others.

The so-called "red flag law" bill is close to its final vote in the state Legislature.  It has sparked protest from a number of  counties in the state and some have passed resolutions pledging not to enforce the law if it’s signed.

That’s a problem, according to Dan Feldman, professor at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York.

“If you have inconsistent enforcement throughout a state – 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent of the state’s counties don’t enforce it,” said Feldman, “then what does it even mean to be a state? With that kind of inconsistency, the nature of the state is called into question.”

But he said since local law enforcement has the right to make budget priority decisions, “they can in fact legitimately say, 'I’m not prosecuting any of these cases. It’s just too low a priority.'”

Governor Polis supports the red flag bill, but has said local law enforcement agencies will have the right to exercise discretion on enforcement. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, though, has taken a harder line, and says sheriffs who do not enforce the law should resign.

Colorado isn’t alone in this controversy. Earlier this year, sheriffs in several Washington state counties said they’d refuse to enforce that state’s restrictions on semi-automatic weapons.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.