(Apr. 12) – Gov. Jared Polis signed the life-saving Extreme Risk Protection Order bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver. This life-saving law will provide a critical tool to help prevent gun violence and suicide and protect families and first responders. The legislation has been in the works for over a year and includes input from law enforcement, the mental health community, advocates for gun violence prevention and elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
“It’s been 351 Friday’s since Alex was murdered. I know how this is going to save lives and I know how hard everybody has worked these past 351 Friday’s,” said Rep. Sullivan. “I struggle with the price that we paid to get where we are today. We still have more work to do.”
Rep. Sullivan’s son, Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting on his twenty-seventh birthday. Sullivan wears Alex’s jacket every day and wore it during the course of the debate in the House. He wore it today as the bill was signed into law.
“This is a moment of progress. Today, we did something that was difficult and that is going to save lives,” said Majority Leader Garnett. “We are a state and country that counts on officials to uphold the rule of law. We have come a long way in this state from Columbine and this is a law that will hopefully prevent a future Columbine or help prevent a future family from going through a tragedy.”
HB19-1177 will give law enforcement another tool to help keep our communities safe. Through this bill, family members or law enforcement can petition a judge for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for someone who is exhibiting violent or dangerous behavior or is at significant risk of causing personal injury to themselves or others. If approved, a temporary order would be placed for up to two weeks and the court would hold a hearing to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for an ERPO. During this hearing, respondents will be provided with legal counsel at no cost to ensure due process rights are protected. If the judge determines, by a clear and convincing evidence standard, that the respondent poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to themselves or others, the protection order may be approved for up to 364 days.
The respondent can also request to have the order terminated at any point during that time period.
The bill, which was also introduced during the 2018 legislative session and passed the House with bipartisan support, is named in honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III, who was killed in the line of duty New Year’s Eve in 2017 by an individual in the middle of a mental health crisis.
Law enforcement officials, including Deputy Parrish’s Sheriff, Tony Spurlock, and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, testified at a Feb. 21 House hearing on the bill. Pelle’s son Jeff is a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy who was also seriously injured responding to the same call with Deputy Parrish.
Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted a letter in support of the legislation. Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh explained to the committee during the hearing how the language in the bill is legal under the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Hours of testimony during House and Senate committee hearings in support of the bill included survivors and their families as well as gun owners and members of law enforcement.
Fourteen states have enacted bipartisan ERPO laws (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington). At least 29 other states and Washington, D.C. have considered ERPO laws. A U.S. Senate committee held a hearing on an ERPO bill this March.
Colorado lost over 1,100 people to suicide in 2017. Studies show that access to a gun in a home triples the risk of death by suicide. Indiana’s firearm suicide rate decreased by nearly eight percent in the ten years after their ERPO legislation was enacted.