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Colorado’s Extreme Risk Protection Orders Protecting Families

July 2, 2020  — Six months into the implementation of a new law that allows police or family members to ask a court to remove firearms from dangerous individuals, the law has been used 59 times. That’s within the bounds of projected need, according to Colorado Ceasefire. The fiscal note for the legislation estimated the law would be used as many as 170 times per year.

The modest number of cases belie the gun lobby’s assertions that the law would be used to unjustly remove guns from innocent people.

From January 1 until the end of June, according to the Colorado Judicial Department, the state had 59 cases for Extreme Risk Protection Orders filed in 20 counties. Leading counties where ERPO protections have been sought: Denver: 16; El Paso: 7; Jefferson: 6; Weld: 5; and Douglas: 5.

“I’m pleased to see the law’s being utilized to protect families, even in some so-called ‘Second Amendment’ counties where law enforcement and elected officials originally had suggested the law would not be upheld,” stated Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action.

“Especially during this pandemic, families need this law to protect their loved ones from suicide or domestic violence,” she concluded.

According to Violence Free Colorado, the mental stressors of job losses, financial insecurity, health concerns, and working from home while caring for children have led to a 20-50 percent rise in requests from domestic violence programs statewide.

Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial), whose son Alex was killed in the Aurora Theater shooting, campaigned on the bill and championed it in the Colorado General Assembly.

The law is named the Zackari Parrish III Gun Violence Prevention Act, in honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Parrish, who was killed in an ambush by a gunman who could have been stopped had an ERPO law been in place at the time.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have ERPO laws, including Colorado. Colorado’s law is unique in that the state pays legal costs of the respondent in hearings for a full 365-day ERPO.

Colorado’s legislation was originally conceived in May 2016, during a workshop co-hosted by Colorado Ceasefire, Mental Health Colorado and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, where law enforcement, mental health professionals, policy makers and others learned of the concept and its effectiveness in other states. The bill was signed into law in April 2019 and became effective January 1, 2020.