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Politics and Government

Republicans, anti-gun control group sue to toss Colorado’s red flag gun law citing broken legislative procedure

The legal challenge is being led by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group also advocating for recalls of Democratic lawmakers who backed the law

Dudley Brown, who leads Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, speaks at a news conference announcing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Colorado's red flag law on May 2, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado House Republicans joined anti-gun control group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners on Thursday to announce a lawsuit aiming to undo the state’s new red flag law, arguing that Democrats failed to follow proper legislative procedure and therefore the policy should be tossed.

“Democrats used illegal and unconstitutional tactics and methods to push a bill that would remove due process rights of our citizens,” said Dudley Brown, who leads Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. “If a judge agrees with us, the (state) constitution will throw this law out and effectively kill the red flag bill.”

The red flag law allows judges to order the temporary seizure of firearms from people deemed a significant risk to themselves or others. Republicans universally opposed the measure as it cleared the legislature. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law earlier this month.

MORE: The red flag gun bill is now law in Colorado. But that doesn’t mean all the questions around it are answered.

The argument behind the lawsuit is that Democrats in the House illegally fulfilled a Republican lawmaker’s request during floor debate that the bill be read at length by having multiple clerks in the chamber read the legislation, from different sections, simultaneously.

Then, when another GOP representative asked that the bill be read at length again, she was denied by Rep. Jovan Melton of Aurora, the Democrat leading proceedings in the House that day.

“To deny the reading of the bill at length is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Lori Saine, the Firestone Republican who made the second request that the bill be read at length.

House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat who led the push for the red flag law, called the lawsuit frivolous.

“This is not about what happened on the floor, this is about the gun lobby trying to unwind a very popular measure to help save and protect lives in Colorado because they like to build their name recognition and they like to be in the news,” Garnett said.

Melton called the legal action “disingenuous.” Both men said they didn’t think a law could be taken off the books because of a technicality, but also that they followed proper procedure.

House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, talks to reporters about the introduction of the red flag gun bill on Feb. 14, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The lawsuit’s proponents argue that case law is on their side because earlier in the session a Denver district court judge ruled that Democrats in the Senate and the secretary in that chamber violated the state constitution by allowing a different measure to be read by multiple computers simultaneously. Republicans in the Senate brought that legal action.

Brown said that this is not the only legal action that could be brought attempting to undo red flag law. He said his group also could challenge its constitutionality.

“We are pursuing another lawsuit in case this is not successful,” Brown said. He added that his group is backing recalls of a dozen Democratic lawmakers who voted for the measure.

El Paso County’s Commission has threatened to sue over the constitutionality of the red flag law as well.

Rising Sun