Colorado Editorials: The red-flag gun safety bill is meant to protect Coloradans |

Colorado Editorials: The red-flag gun safety bill is meant to protect Coloradans

The red-flag gun safety bill is meant to protect Coloradans

Don’t confuse clamor and histrionics from Colorado gun safety opponents with solid opposition to a critical red-flag gun bill poised to finally become law.

An Associated Press poll released Saturday confirms what most Colorado residents and lawmakers have long known: A strong majority of Americans want stronger gun control laws.

In Colorado, it appears we’re finally going to get one.

That’s despite years of obstruction and opposition by key Republican lawmakers who refused to even allow all state lawmakers to vote on plans like House Bill 1177, creating extreme risk protection orders.

The bill would allow family or police to provide evidence to a court that a gun owner has critical psychological problems and should be separated from their firearms and ammunition. A judge would have to weigh the evidence and determine whether someone’s behavior warrants intervention.

If it’s difficult to see why that’s a bad idea, it’s because it’s not.

Police officials from across the state have supported this measure, seeing the wisdom in getting lethal weapons out of the hands of critically mentally ill and unstable people.

If the measure is enforced, it could save the lives of family members in the home, strangers in malls, children in schools, police officers on the street and the gun owners themselves.

Regardless, flailing opponents of the measure have tried repeatedly, again, to thwart the bill with threats to not enforce it, misinformation, disinformation, delaying stunts and outright deception.

What critics can’t dismiss, however, are the facts.

The facts are, mentally ill people with access to guns have wantonly killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people over the past few decades in Colorado, including Aurora.

Had laws existed permitting and prompting people to call police and report dangerous behavior by people who are known to have firearms, untold lives might have been saved by simply making a phone call.

More important, breathless gun safety critics are just completely wrong saying the public supports their opposition and obstruction. An astounding 67 percent of Americans polled recently — before and after the New Zealand massacre — want stronger gun control laws.

Colorado’s red-flag bill is nothing more than common sense that respects the rights of all gun owners while ensuring that people who are psychologically impaired are protected from themselves, and that the public is protected from them.

When trying to balance the right to own guns, and the rights of others not to be killed by them, it’s clear that gun ownership rights must take second place.

Don’t be distracted or impressed by the disruptive din from a smattering of vocal critics. Many of these opponents have unshakable connections to organizations like the NRA and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who will never settle for any restrictions on gun ownership and gun use.

Despite the drama, HB 1177 does not imperil Second Amendment rights. It’s just a sensible way to remove lethal weapons from people who demonstrably put at risk their own lives and those of others.

Aurora Sentinel, March 23

Senate Bill 181 will destroy the economy

The last few weeks have undoubtedly been worrying for families in the oil and gas industry as Senate Bill 181 makes its way through the Colorado General Assembly.

Proponents of the bill argue that it would mean the most significant changes to the way oil and gas is regulated in the state in 60 years, but opponents are spelling an impending economic disaster.

Democrats, who wrote the bill, said SB 181 will not shut down the oil and gas industry, but properly regulate the industry.

“We also must empower communities to take control over what’s happening in their backyards and equip them with the tools they need to stand up for their best interests,” said state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, in a statement to the Denver Post. “These common-sense reforms will ensure the industry operates in an accountable and cooperative manner.”

Key word: cooperative.

It’s kind of hard to be cooperative when the bill is crafted without input from the industry, and the first element was passed during a blizzard that shut down most of the state.

Not surprisingly, especially in the wake of the decisive defeat of Proposition 112 last November, there is plenty of anger at this latest attempt to change the rules around oil and gas. Those concerns led to a pair of efforts to block the potential implementation of SB 181, including at the ballot box.

The measured side of the argument came from a group of 46 elected officials, including several from Weld County, urging Gov. Jared Polis, Fenberg and other state leaders to reject the bill.

“Senate Bill 181 is especially troubling, as it singles out a single industry and could make it prohibitively difficult for many operators to continue working in our state,” the letter states. “The numbers are chilling: according to a study released this week by the nonpartisan REMI Partnership, a 50 percent reduction in Colorado’s oil and gas production could cost the state 120,000 jobs and $8 billion in state and local tax revenue by 2030.”

The local officials who added their name to the letter included: Eaton Mayor Kevin Ross, Evans Mayor Brian Rudy, Evans Mayor pro-tem Mark Clark, Fort Lupton Mayor Zo Stieber, Greeley Mayor John Gates, Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman, Weld County Commissioner Scott James, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez.

On the other side of the conversation is Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who along with former Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney, has authored four ballot initiatives that will repeal SB 181 — if it passes.

Kirkmeyer held nothing back in her criticism of SB 181.

“We aren’t going to roll over and let regressive Boulder politicians and the party-line lemmings following them kill an industry, destroy jobs, devastate families and slash energy funding that goes to our schools,” she wrote in an email. “The Boulder Mafia is grossly overreaching, and mainstream voters of this state will reject their extremism.”

While state Democrats soft-pedal the impact on the industry, they clearly didn’t seek the cooperation or collaboration of the industry when crafting the legislation. In fact, SB 181 would weaken some of the industry’s technical expertise when it comes to oversight of production.

The passage during the blizzard proved to be a slippery moment for the Democrats and clearly showed that they weren’t interested in working with others to craft something reasonable and responsible.

The two efforts by these elected officials are probably the first of many efforts to make those who support oil and gas workers heard, and the state should listen to the concerns of those who could be negatively impacted by the legislation.

Of course, it’s kind of hard to listen when you do it under the cloud of a blizzard.

Greeley Tribune, March 23

The death penalty needs to be repealed

No one ran for office promising to repeal the death penalty in Colorado.

It’s not a popular public policy that promises to help the middle class or tackle climate change.

Rather, repealing the death penalty is a difficult vote cast in defense of those accused of heinous crimes — it is a profile in political courage.

Sens. Angela Williams and Julie Gonzales and Reps. Jeni James Arndt and Adrienne Benavidez have shown their courage by introducing Senate Bill 182 which would repeal the death penalty from Colorado law.

But the road ahead is difficult with reports indicating that four Democrats may be unsure of how they would vote on the bill.

There are compelling arguments for keeping capital punishment on the books, especially from district attorneys who say they would be unable to extract guilty pleas to those facing life without parole unless the possibility of execution was looming in the background.

It was a small blessing in a sea of evil that the family of Shanann Watts and her two daughters, who were brutally murdered in Weld County, was spared a long trial by a guilty plea. District Attorney Michael Rourke, who oversaw the plea deal in the Watts’ case, told The Denver Post’s Elise Schmelzer that “Without this tool that we have at our disposal right now, reserved for the worst of the worst, those pleas simply don’t happen.”

Please pause for a moment to consider the ramifications of that statement. We mean no disrespect to Rourke, who handled the Watts’ case well, and is expressing a commonly held opinion among this state’s district attorneys — but as a society we should shy away from eliciting guilty pleas not by the strength of the evidence we have against someone, but by the horrors of the punishment they could face if the trial doesn’t go their way.

“I really don’t view it as a bargaining chip,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann told Schmelzer.

Reports from the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers indicate that people do plead guilty when they are innocent to avoid the risk of losing at trial and facing decades more in prison or a seat on death row.

Colorado last put someone to death in 1997, and only three people remain on death row, one of whom has a temporary stay of execution that only a governor can revoke. The penalty has been used sporadically at best and has become a relic on our books with jurors twice, recently, refusing to impose death on those they found guilty of mass killings. The inconsistent and subjective nature of this law has left it open to criticism. How can we say with certainty that justice is being done when whether or not you face the death penalty for a crime is determined on what zip code you commit the crime in and what the political leanings of that area are.

Our justice system needs to be applied equally, and that has not been the case. Even when a death sentence is supported by a jury, the ensuing appeals last for decades and can draw out the pain of survivors for longer than an original trial would have.

The Denver Post editorial board has opposed the death penalty for decades for these reasons, and Colorado lawmakers should repeal this bad law.

The Denver Post, March 21

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