Senate narrowly passes red-flag bill, 18-17; measure expected to advance to governor

Gun rights advocates are again threatening recall efforts against lawmakers who support it

Senate President Leroy Garcia during a budget debate on March 27, 2019. (Photo by John Herrick)

Editor’s note:  With an 18-17 vote, the Senate Thursday afternoon narrowly passed Colorado’s controversial red-flag bill, would allow police to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a threat. The only Senate Democrat to vote against House Bill 1177 was President Leroy Garcia, whose Pueblo constituents threatened a recall if he voted in favor of it. The measure now heads back to the House, where members are expected to approve a few changes made by the Senate. Gov. Polis has said he will sign the bill. This story was orginially published on March 26, 2019. 

Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, will vote “no” on the so-called red-flag bill aimed at reducing gun violence, one of the party’s top policy priorities this session. 

Garcia’s decision, first reported in The Pueblo Chieftain Tuesday, comes amid threats of recalls targeting Democratic lawmakers in vulnerable seats who support gun control legislation.

“I took a hard look at this bill, and while I strongly believe in its intent of preventing gun violence, this is simply not the right legislation for the people of Pueblo and southern Colorado,” Garcia said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 1177, which passed the House 38-25 earlier this month, would allow police to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a threat to themselves or others. Since the February 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., over a dozen states have passed similar red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.

Two Democratic representatives from southern Colorado voted against the bill in the House: Rep. Bri Buentello, a special ed teacher from Pueblo, who narrowly defeated her Republican challenger in the November election, and Rep. Donald Valdez, a Democrat from La Jara.

Democrats control the Senate 19-16. If one more Democrat joins Senate President Garcia and decides to vote against the bill, it will fail.

A vote is expected as soon as Wednesday. Gov. Jared Polis said he will sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

Garcia, who has avoided taking a stand on the bill for weeks, added in his Tuesday statement:  “Make no mistake – As a Marine veteran, I firmly believe that we can work together while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners and addressing the issues at hand. I want to continue working with my colleagues to find a Colorado solution.”  

Talk of recalls has filled the Capitol this year after Democrats swept into power in November in the Senate, House and governor’s office.

Democratic Rep. Rochelle Galindo of Greeley faces a recall, in part for her vote for the red-flag bill.

“Weld County is a very pro-Second Amendment,” said Stacey Kjeldgaard, who served as the chairwoman of the Weld County GOP for about a year and who is involved in the recall effort.

In 2013, former Senate President John Morse, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, was ousted after voting for a bill limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and another requiring universal background checks.

So, too, was Angela Giron, a Democrat from Pueblo. Garcia now occupies her seat. There was a recall committee to oust Garcia registered with the Secretary of State before he even voted against the bill. 

“I lived through 2013,” Garcia said at a breakfast hosted by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, The Pueblo Chieftain reported.

3 COMMENTS

  1. As always, I’m curious why no Republican (or Sen. Garcia) is able to propose an approach to reduce gun violence. If the Red Flag bill isn’t the way, what is? And where has the approach they prefer been implemented so we can see how it worked out?

  2. Mr. Garcia was elected as a Democrat. He has let down fellow Dems and the State of Colorado where the majority of citizens favor this common sense legislation. If Mr. Garcia is so frightened of recall, who else will be able to bend him to their will? We elect people for their character and integrity, two qualities that are sadly missing in Mr. Garcia’s resume. I think he should be removed as Senate President. He is no leadere.

  3. Poor reporting by John Herrick and the Colorado Independent.
    What does “temporary” mean? Do they get their guns back the next day regardless of circumstances? Do they have to hire lawyers and go through an expensive, years long process to get them back? Report properly by stating the whole truth.
    Who is “deeming” a person a threat? A phyciatrist? A cop? A judge? A neighbor? An ex-spouse? A parent? And do they have to be “deemed” differently before getting their guns back? And if so, again, by whom?
    Do better John and the Independent.

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