Denver Man Gives Up His Guns After Agreeing To Colorado’s First Extreme Risk Protection Order

January 15, 2020
Handguns DisplayHandguns DisplayCharlie Riedel/AP
Handguns for sale are lined up in a display case, Dec. 21, 2018.

Colorado has what appears to be its first extreme risk protection order, approved two weeks after the new law went into effect.

On Tuesday, a Denver man agreed to hand over his firearms for 364 days under Colorado’s so-called red flag law.

The law allows a judge to temporarily remove somebody’s firearms if they’re deemed a danger to themselves or others.

According to documents filed in a Denver Probate Court, there was “clear and convincing evidence" that the man posed a significant risk of causing injury to himself or others.

Denver police officers filed a petition for an order on Jan. 2 after an altercation between the man and his wife in December. That led to a temporary order until a hearing initially scheduled for Jan. 16.

But this week, the man waived his right to a hearing, putting the 364-day order into effect.

The state has seen a handful of other petitions filed, according to news reports. The law still has its critics. And in one particular case, the Larimer County Sheriff has said he won’t serve a petition to the respondent.

That petition is for Colorado State University police officer Phillip Morris, who shot and killed 19-year-old Jeremy Holmes in 2017. The teenager’s mother, Susan Holmes, filed it last week. But Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith called the petition a “fraud.”

“Ms. Holmes has no legal standing and the petition on its face has zero merit,” Smith said in a Facebook post. “We are actively investigating this abuse of the system and we will determine what charges may be substantiated against the petitioner, Ms. Holmes.”

During the incident that led to Jeremy Holmes’ death, he charged at Morris with a large knife. Morris and another officer were both cleared of any wrongdoing.

“That man should have his gun taken away and he should never be able to work as a police officer,” Susan Holmes said in a video shared on YouTube. In the video, Holmes’ petition appears to indicate that she and Morris share a child together, something that is reportedly false.

There’s a hearing for Morris scheduled at the Larimer County Justice Center on Thursday. Another hearing set for Jan. 21 concerns David Galton, who’s been in police custody since March. He allegedly threatened to commit mass shootings in 2018.

Detective Stephen Pastecki of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office filed that petition on Jan. 7 and expressed fear that Galton would incite violence if released from jail.

Dave Kopel teaches law at the University of Denver and works with the Independence Institute, a Libertarian think tank. He said there’s no comprehensive way to track when and where Colorado’s red flag law is being used.

“Clearly the law is being used more often than I think the budget process expected,” Kopel said. “How many have we had so far? We actually don't know about all the ones we’ve had because not every one is necessarily public or comes to public attention.”

Kopel said the law should have been written with better due process protections. He said the law would have been better if it had consequences for people who make false reports or compensation for anyone falsely accused.

Rally For Our Rights, a Colorado-based gun rights group, says it plans to track those who have firearms removed under the red flag law.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Phillip Morris.