In 22 states, Republicans control the governor's mansion, the Senate and the House. Colorado, however, is one of 17 states where Democrats hold sway with the three-way majority. With his liberal party solidly in control since 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (pictured above) signed four separate gun bills last week, two of which drew immediate lawsuits from the watchdog group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO).
Polis signed bills that (1) increased the buying age of firearms from 18 to 21 [SB23-169] and (2) created a three-day waiting period from purchase to receipt of a firearm [HB23-1219]. Anticipating those measures, RMGO lawsuits were filed before Polis put away his pen.
"We think both of these are fairly slam-dunk lawsuits that we're working on right now," RMGO executive director Taylor Rhodes said on American Family Radio Monday.
The other two measures (SB23-168 and SB23-170), he added, are more complicated. "Frankly, we don't have a standing yet, and we need someone to be negatively affected, unfortunately," Rhodes told show host Jenna Ellis. Lawsuits over similar restrictions are percolating in other states.
Rhodes' primary concern over the waiting period deals with the bill's open-ended language. While the minimum wait period from purchase to receipt is three days, the bill specifies no maximum wait period. A summary of the bill states the wait period to be "the later in time of three after the initiation of the required background check or when the purchase is approved following any background check."
Rhodes has heard horror stories of wait periods from would-be gun purchasers during the pandemic. The background checks are performed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
"I had a gun that was on a waiting period for 21 days, and we didn't even have a waiting period installed. They just didn't have enough agents to run the background check. Something that small you know, three or four people call out sick or they decide that they're not going to open their background check system for a couple of days," Rhodes said. "In theory, they could delay you as long as they wanted to with no repercussions."
Regarding the other bill, Rhodes contends a 21-year-old age requirement "frankly probably isn't consistent with text history and tradition of the Second Amendment" and has already been overturned in other states.
Horizon broadens for red flag laws
The other laws (created under SB23-168 and SB23-170) deal with expansion of the "red flag" provision and a roll back of lawsuit protections for certain manufacturers. A red flag law is also known as an "Extreme Risk Protection Order." It allows people in close contact with a person to ask a court to temporarily remove that person's guns if he or she has exhibited behavior that could be described as dangerous.
Previously, that petition power was limited mainly to family and law-enforcement. The new law allows doctors, mental health professionals and teachers to ask a judge to remove a person's guns.
"We've seen this wave of red flag confiscation going on around the country," Rhodes explained. "Now, not only can your disgruntled ex-spouse red flag you but your primary care physician or an ER nurse [can as well]. You could go in for mental health therapy, and the therapist could red flag you. We're hearing tons of opposition to this from military members because now they're having to choose whether to get their PTSD treated or whether they're going to be able to keep their gun rights."
Rhodes compared Colorado's new red flag power for teachers to unrest at school board meetings in Loudoun County, Virginia in 2021.
"If you get upset in a parent-teacher meeting or you're speaking out in front of the school board … I mean we saw what happened in Virginia when parents who were showing up to school board meetings were labeled as terrorists. I mean, these are some of the first people that are going be red flagged," Rhodes said.
While most can agree on the need to remove guns from the emotionally unstable, Rhodes said that's a fine line often crossed in a political climate that seeks to remove all guns.
"We know that these things are often used not to just take the guns out of mentally unstable peoples' hands but are used as malicious weapons to harm gun owners," he said.
The fourth law not only removes most protections for the firearm industry but exposes to legal action companies whose products are improperly used in commission of a crime. Rhodes offered the example of a "roll pin" that might be purchased as a replacement part and installed on a gun.
"So let me give you this example of how heinous this bill is. If you go out and purchase a roll pin, this is the smallest portion of an AR-15. That roll pin ends up in an AR that happens to be used in a gun crime. The victim of that gun crime could not only sue the seller of that roll pin, but [also] the manufacturer of that roll pin, if it could be traced back to that AR," Rhodes said.
No manufacturer is safe from a lawsuit
Continuing his explanation, Rhodes said a store like Walmart could be held liable for duct tape, a flashlight or anything that might be used to alter a gun in any way while that gun is used in commission of a crime. The new law also allows the state to file a lawsuit on behalf of a victim of crime without the victim's consent.
Rhodes believes the effort to take away guns will backfire on Democrats.
"They've sold us this bill of goods that all of these laws are going to protect us. [They say] it's going to stop crime, it's going to reduce suicide. In reality, that's not the case. Crime rates have gone through the roof here in Colorado. Colorado's one of the most dangerous states to live in today. Suicide rates have gone through the roof," Rhodes said.
Democrats, he says, are targeting the wrong things in their efforts to avoid mass shootings and other violent crime.
"The mentally disturbed shooter who goes and causes catastrophic harm almost always comes from a fatherless, broken home. We have to have fathers back in the home," Rhodes said. "Secondly, we have kids who are completely, overly medicated most of the time on some kind of stabilizing drug, and they're started at a very young age. We've got to get our kids off these meds."
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, based in Denver, is the Colorado affiliate of the National Association for Gun Rights.