Bill Named in Honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III
(Feb. 21) – Tonight, the House Judiciary committee approved the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial and Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver. This bill would provide a critical tool to help prevent gun violence and suicide and protect families and first responders. The bill has been in the works for over a year and includes input from law enforcement, advocates for gun violence prevention measures, the mental health community and elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
“I remember testifying at the capitol in 2013 and in the years since and being hopeful that the right thing was being done,” said Rep. Sullivan. “Today, I felt that hopefulness come once again – that I was sitting in a place where we were going to do the right thing. This is our chance to do the right thing and put us on the path to saving lives and bringing safety back to our communities.”
Rep. Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting on his twenty-seventh birthday.
HB19-1177 will give law enforcement another tool to help keep our communities safe. Through this bill, family or law enforcement can petition a judge for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for someone who is exhibiting violent or dangerous behavior or 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 then the court would hold a hearing to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for a full ERPO. During this hearing, respondents will be provided 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 the 364-day time period.
“Robust due process protections, a process for families and law enforcement to intervene to avoid the escalation of conflicts before they turn into tragedies, providing legal counsel to the respondent — our approach to the Extreme Risk Protection Order is unique and represents a Colorado solution,” said Rep. Garnett. “Together, we can save lives. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill.”
The bill, which was also introduced during the 2018 legislative session and passed the House, 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
Deputy Sheriff Parrish would have been thirty-one years old today.
Last week, law enforcement officials, including Deputy Parrish’s Sheriff, Tony Spurlock, and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, spoke in favor of the bill at a press conference. Pelle’s son Jeff is a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy who was also seriously injured responding to the same call with Deputy Parrish.
It would also have been the birthday of two of the students murdered last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, California. A number of young people testified in support of this life-saving legislation. One student described her generation as the “active-shooter generation.”
Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted a letter in support of the legislation. Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh explained to the committee how the language in the bill is legal under the second, fourth, and fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Testimony in support of the bill included survivors and their families as well as gun owners and members of law enforcement.
Thirteen states have enacted bipartisan ERPO laws (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington). At least 29 other states and Washington, D.C. have considered ERPO laws.
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.
HB19-1177 was approved on a vote of 7-4 and now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.