Ask The Indy: How far will Colorado Democrats go with gun reform?

Potential buyers try out guns displayed on an exhibitor's table at an expo in 2016. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Potential buyers try out guns displayed on an exhibitor's table at an expo in 2016. Lawmakers hope to pass fun reforms in 2020. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Ask the Indy project is a way for our readers who’ve got pressing questions on policy and politics to put them directly to us. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out here — and ask away!

A reader named Lois recently asked, “What kinds of gun reform or control would Gov. Polis support?”

The question is timely — Thursday, the U.S. House voted to strengthen background checks for gun buyers, the most significant gun legislation to get through the chamber in 20 years.

Colorado already has fairly strict laws on background checks, but what about other measures? We put Lois’s question to the governor, and here’s what we can report back: His office doesn’t really want to talk about it.

Polis supports the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill — more commonly known as ERPO or “red flag” legislation — which would allow law enforcement agencies in Colorado to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed by a judge to be a high danger to themselves or others. This bill was recently introduced by Democrats in the state House and is expected to advance soon to the Senate. Democrats control both chambers.

But other than ERPO, what gun reforms might Polis back? We asked his spokeswoman, Laurie Cipriano:

“The governor is aware of ERPO, but has not seen any gun violence prevention measures be introduced,” she said, in a prepared statement. “He will review any proposals if and when they arise in the legislature.”

Reviewing proposed legislation is part of any governor’s job, of course. So, Lois and anyone else interested in the topic, what you can take away, Polis-wise, is that any leadership on gun legislation aside from ERPO isn’t coming from the governor for now.

That does not necessarily mean, however, that legislative efforts on this front are going to end with ERPO.

So, what other kinds of gun reform can Coloradans reasonably expect to come up at the Capitol in the next two years?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that Republicans have a wish list, but it’s going nowhere for now because of Democratic control. Already, several GOP gun bills have died this year, including one that sought to let concealed-carry permit holders take firearms on school grounds and another that would remove the state’s limits on magazine capacity.

For the Democrats, newcomer Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a co-sponsor of ERPO, has become the de facto spokesman on gun legislation. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting of 2012. Since his first day at the Capitol, Sullivan, a retired Postal Service worker, has been focused on passing ERPO, something he promised voters throughout his campaign.

It looks like he’ll make good on that promise. Depending on how quickly it moves through the legislative process, the bill could become law by mid-March.

House leadership, Sullivan said, made clear “at the very, very beginning of this session that (ERPO) was No. 1. It was certainly my No. 1.”

But is there a No. 2? Or 3?  We reached out to the House and Senate Democrats, and neither side was keen to talk about it. None of the legislators we contacted in House or Senate leadership got back to us.

Instead, spokesmen for both chambers sent us statements that said as little as the governor’s office did.

“The Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation is currently in the House, but we look forward to discussing it and other legislation that protects the health and safety of Coloradans, when it comes over to the Senate,” said Keith Barnish, spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

Rep. Alec Garnett, House majority leader, sent us a statement through a spokesman in his chamber: “Gun violence prevention and keeping communities safe remain a top priority for House Democrats and that’s why we are focused on passing the life-saving Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.”

Democrats have been careful with how they talk about red-flag legislation and Republicans have vowed to use it “against them” in swing districts.

Sullivan, however, said he’s not slowing down. He reeled off several possible bills he said he’d support this session or next. They include:

    • Lost and stolen firearms: Eleven states require someone who has lost a firearm or had a firearm stolen to report it to law enforcement. Colorado’s not one of them and Sullivan said he hopes to change that.
    • Smash-and-grabs: A smash-and-grab burglary involves a person or group breaking into a retail shop with the intention of stealing. It happens from time to time at pawn shops and gun stores. It happened last month in Castle Rock and in December in Lakewood. “I believe that I’ve put everyone on notice that we need to do something about these smash-and-grabs, where people are stealing cars and smashing windows, taking cement mixers” — the vehicle of choice in the Lakewood incident — “and driving them through the fronts of pawn shops and gun stores, and just walking out with all these firearms.” A bill addressing this could require stores to safely store their firearms after business hours, perhaps in safes or behind metal bars, Sullivan said.
    • Safe storage: Sullivan said he’d like to see a bill that requires gun owners to store and secure their weapons when they’re not home, so that their children can’t accidentally or intentionally get a hold of them. He called it common-sense, saying it’s “inconceivable to me that we even need to legislate this stuff.”

Sullivan said he’s still figuring things out at the Capitol and isn’t sure whether these proposals have any chance this session or would have to wait until next year. We asked him if he feels any urgency to advance some of this potential legislation once ERPO’s out of the way.

“It’s not any more urgent than it was 343 Fridays ago when my son was murdered,” Sullivan told us. “But now we actually have to have people who will stand up and have the courage to do it.”


  1. Red flag confiscation laws are being trumpeted by socialist-democrats right now because their usual gun control arguments are lopsided losers. They’ve been hoodwinked by Bloomberg’s rhetoric and haven’t read his 2018 data. It reveals gun homicides declined seven percent, firearm injuries declined 10 percent, fatal child shootings (under 18) declined 12 percent and unintentional shootings plummeted 21 percent.

    Further, a December 2018 Gallup Poll revealed that gun control is last on a list of what Americans cite as the most important problem facing the U.S. Seems government is the most important problem and immigration is second most important. Obviously, the socialist-democrats are pushing a solution in search of a problem.

    Unarguably, our government cannot be trusted with the 2nd Amendment, just as our founders warned us. The primary problem with this nationwide hysteria to enforce red flag laws is none are crafted with sufficient protections for the accused. Apparently, we’ve been deluding ourselves that the U.S. judiciary would rather let ten guilty parties go free than convict one innocent person.

    Additionally, these laws generally place enormous responsibility and pressure on police officers and judges to dispense pretrial punishment, just in case an owner might be mentally afflicted. This kind of punishment is overly severe to be based on amateur opinions afforded by all the red flag laws enacted thus far.

    Since we’re dealing with mentally troubled persons, the law should include analysis by licensed psychiatrists. Doubtlessly, we all know of judges and law officers who are far from qualified for such professional undertakings. I also doubt that they’d volunteer to diagnose mental illness if their jobs depended on doing it correctly.

    This movement makes it clear that democrats want control without responsibility. I used to wonder why leftists saturate media outlets with soothing pleas for conversation instead of acting on their clear and ultimate goal of total confiscation. I assumed they stopped short of the extreme because they know firearms owners won’t tolerate confiscation without unimaginable fury.

    Fact is leftists will temporarily settle for controlling little things like angry partners, bayonet lugs, ammunition taxes, bullet shapes and so on. But it’s still part of a common leftist flimflam. Eventually they’ll again get around to universal background checks that are impossible to manage without universal registration.

    They need a universal firearm registry because it fundamentally transforms 120 million owners into dependents. Once they know who the owners are, they’ll choose which of them are allowed to be licensed. It’s the consummate entitlement. The democrat party cannot survive without more than half the nation being dependent on the government. Leftists trade entitlements for votes. It’s the heart of their strategy.

    Justice requires that the accused be afforded at least a modicum of professional analysis and an official opinion by two or more psychiatrists. Leftists screech in the streets if denied a full measure of due process but close their eyes on the subject of self-defense by firearm. These laws open the doors to scorned partners, angry neighbors, children seeking a parent’s wealth and arrogant judges.

    They empower mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors, judges, police officers, boyfriends, girlfriends, classmates, teachers and everyone except those actually qualified to judge mental competence. Makes me wonder about the motive for this law.

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nicotine dependence, aka smoking, as a treatable disorder. I’m sure socialists already are piecing together another version of this law to declare smoking as sufficiently deranged behavior to justify confiscation of firearms. To iterate, socialists are not interested in public safety. They hope to disarm the governed before dispatching the disobedient.

  2. If the Democrats want to save lives like the say they do.

    Out law abortion!!!!!!!

    They will fight tooth and nail to murder unborn children, can you see the problem here!

  3. The discussion should be why would you promote abortions and in the next breath say gun control saves lives. I would bet my ranch there are more human lives taken by abortions in one year, than all the mass shootings combined.

    Answer that question please?

  4. Do we live in the US or abroad? Who cares what they do over there, I’m concerned about my God given right to defend myself and bear arms. That’s right government did not give me permission to have arms, God did and the 2nd amendment limits Government not grant it’s permission to we the people.

    If it did it would be in plan words for you to understand.

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