Members of Colorado Gun Owners for Safety Testified in Support of the Bill
H.B. 1177, the Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act, establishes a process to obtain an extreme risk protection order
March 16, 2019 — Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, praised the Colorado Senate Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs for passing H.B. 1177, a bill that would establish a process to obtain extreme risk protection orders, which allow for firearms to be temporarily removed from people in crisis. Mike Heyka and Vic Bencomo, members of the Colorado Gun Owners for Safety, testified in support of the legislation, highlighting that the bill respects their Second Amendment rights while adding measures that will keep gun owners safe.
“Leaders in the Colorado Senate stepped up today and moved one step closer to making Colorado communities safer from gun violence,” said Nico Bocour, state legislative director at Giffords. “Passing an extreme risk law will save lives, and this bill will give Colorado law enforcement and families the comfort to know that they have tools to temporarily remove guns from a loved one who is experiencing a crisis and may pose a risk to themselves or others. Senate sponsors Senators Lois Court and Brittany Pettersen, and the lawmakers on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee have shown courage and compassion in advancing this legislation. We applaud their efforts and will continue to fight to get this bill through the senate and to the governor’s desk.”
At the hearing, Vic stated in his testimony: “The United States will see more Veteran Suicides then the total amount of Service Members Killed in Action in the last 17 years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. A more staggering statistic is that Colorado ranks higher for Veteran suicides than most states in the nation. In 2016, 175 veterans committed suicide in Colorado, of those 175, 119 of them or 68% used a firearm. I have personally, on multiple occasions have taken custody of another Veterans firearm when they found themselves in crises and in need of help. Make no mistake about it, veterans suicides is an Epidemic, and with each epidemic we need our elected officials to pass legislation to help solve the problem and save lives.”
According to recent Giffords polling, 79 percent of Colorado voters support a law that would allow a judge to temporarily remove guns from people who are determined to be a risk to themselves or a threat to others. This includes 77 percent of gun-owning households in the state.
Earlier this month, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades and ranks each state on its gun laws, and found that Colorado received a “C.” While Colorado did not pass any significant gun safety legislation in 2018, gun safety advocates successfully defeated two dangerous gun lobby–backed bills, one to allow permitless carry and another to permit guns in K–12 schools. Passing laws like this extreme risk bill will help the state raise its grade above a C.
Colorado House Majority Leader Alec Garnett and Representative Tom Sullivan, whose son was tragically killed in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting in 2012, introduced H.B. 1177. Senator Lois Court of District 31 and Senator Brittany Pettersen of District 22 have co-sponsored the legislation.
BACKGROUND ABOUT EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDERS
Extreme risk laws create a civil court order, issued by a judge upon consideration of evidence provided by a family member or law enforcement officer, that temporarily prohibits a person in crisis from possessing or purchasing firearms. A common thread in many shootings is that family members of the shooters had noticed their loved ones engaging in dangerous behaviors and were concerned about their risk of harming themselves or others—even before any violence occurred.
- Extreme risk laws create a mechanism for families and law enforcement to temporarily prevent access to guns by individuals who pose an elevated risk of endangering themselves or others. These laws can save lives while ensuring critical legal protections for respondents, just as they have in states that have already taken this responsible step.
- Extreme risk laws are based on the long-standing domestic violence protection orders (in place in all 50 states) and involve both a court hearing and clearly-defined due process protections. Qualifying petitioners would be able to petition a civil court for an order based on evidence they present at a hearing before a judge.
- Extreme risk laws give individuals an opportunity to present evidence to show they are not a danger to themselves or others. If a court issues an order, respondents would still be able to petition for early termination of the order and are eligible to have their firearms returned upon expiration of the order.
- States with extreme risk laws have seen positive results and are saving lives. California enacted a version of this lifesaving law in 2014, and Washington voters overwhelmingly passed it in November 2016. Connecticut and Indiana have long-standing extreme risk laws that allow law enforcement officers to intervene when people are in crisis and have easy access to guns. In the first 14 years of the implementation of Connecticut’s law, researchers estimated that by temporarily removing weapons from 762 at-risk individuals, Connecticut’s law had saved up to 100 lives from suicide alone. In addition, nearly one-third of respondents received critical mental health and substance abuse treatment as a result of the intervention. A total of 13 states now have extreme risk laws in place.
- Extreme risk laws are a particularly important tool to help prevent suicides. Those in a suicidal crisis are much more likely to survive if they do not have easy access to firearms for the duration of the crisis. Research shows that people are more likely to die by suicide if they have easy access to firearms. Eighty-five percent of suicide attempts involving firearms are fatal. Nine out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt do not die by suicide at a later date. These facts demonstrate that Extreme Risk Laws, which can prevent suicidal individuals from accessing guns during a crisis, will likely save lives.
BACKGROUND ABOUT COLORADO GUN OWNERS FOR SAFETY:
Colorado Gun Owners for Safety launched earlier this year after Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Capt. Mark Kelly, co-founders of Giffords, attended a roundtable in the state where gun owners shared their personal stories about getting involved and why they believe in the Second Amendment and stronger gun laws. The group formed after Colorado gun owners decided to take action because of their concern over the gun violence crisis. Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2017 the number of people dying from gun violence rose for the third year in a row. Overall, 39,773 Americans died in 2017 from gunshots, meaning that nearly 109 people were killed by firearms each day.