DENVER, CO– Governor Polis today signed three new laws that will help keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, fund victims services programs and ensure that court personnel have the training they need to best support victims and survivors of domestic violence.
“One of my top priorities when I came to the legislature was to make sure we were doing everything possible to support victims and survivors of domestic violence like me,” said Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, sponsor of HB21-1255 and SB21-292. “For far too many, the COVID-19 pandemic made unsafe domestic violence situations even more dangerous, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done this year to address this urgent need. The bills signed today will help keep firearms out of the hands of abusers and ensure that the organizations doing phenomenal work for survivors across the state have the funding they need.”
SB21-292, also sponsored by Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, allocates $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to several different victims services programs that assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Among these programs are the Domestic Abuse Program in the Department of Human Services, the Forensic Nurse Examiner Telehealth Program in the Department of Public Safety, and the Victims and Witnesses Assistance and Law Enforcement Fund, which sends resources to each judicial district.
These programs help survivors hold property while keeping their addresses confidential and their homes secure, promote rapid rehousing so survivors can pay for the costs associated with moving, and provide flexible financial assistance for a variety of basic needs. Funds also pay for attorney fees in domestic violence court cases, and are channeled to anti-sexual assault and gender-based violence organizations across the state to provide community-based crisis intervention services and counseling.
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen first hand how our current laws can fail domestic violence victims when abusers avoid relinquishing their weapons. That ends now,” said Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, sponsor of HB21-1255. “The new law signed today will strengthen the processes by which these firearms are relinquished and help us save lives.”
HB21-1255 will strengthen and streamline procedures for the relinquishment of firearms by someone who has a domestic violence-related protection order issued against them. Current law already requires domestic violence offenders who are subject to a protection order stemming from an act of domestic or intimate partner violence to forfeit their firearms and refrain from possessing or purchasing firearms for the duration of the order. This bill simply clarifies the way in which defendants must comply with this requirement, and how courts must carry it out.
A recent analysis of 749 mass shootings committed over the past six years found that about 60 percent of them were either domestic violence attacks or committed by men with histories of domestic violence. In Colorado, 60 incidents of domestic violence led to 70 deaths in 2019, a 62 percent increase from the prior year, according to the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review board’s annual report.
“Domestic violence isn’t always easy to identify and understand, but with the right training, our court personnel will be much better prepared to support victims in the courtroom,” said Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood, sponsor of HB21-1228. “Giving court employees who deal with custody disputes and other domestic matters these crucial trainings will help them carry out their jobs in a more effective way and hopefully save lives. I am grateful to the many families who lent their support and shared their stories throughout this process. This is a big victory for Colorado.”
HB21-1228 will clarify and increase domestic violence training requirements for court personnel who frequently deal with cases related to domestic matters, such as custody disputes. Training for all personnel includes both an initial training as well as an ongoing annual continuing education. The training would encompass domestic violence and its traumatic effects on children, adults and families.