Monday, March 4, 2019

Message from Sheriff Matt Lewis

Sheriff Matt Lewis
Mesa County
“As I continue to receive questions regarding my stance on Colorado House Bill 19-1177, commonly known as the “Red Flag Bill”, I want to let the citizens of Mesa County know my thoughts on the bill, and the efforts I am taking to prevent this bill from becoming law.

Before I address the contents of the bill itself, I want you to know that Sheriffs across Colorado are engaged and fighting on both sides of this legislation. In preparation for the committee hearing on this bill, I met with several Sheriffs and discussed concerns that should be used for testimony against this bill. Ultimately, due to proximity and scheduling, Sheriff Reams from Weld County testified on behalf of his county, Mesa County, Larimer County, and El Paso County. I am grateful he was able to convey our thoughts to the committee. In spite of our opposition, the committee voted in favor of the bill.

Since that time, I have been actively engaged in trying to stop this piece of legislation from becoming law. Most recently, spending time in Denver speaking with both sides about changing the mental health hold statutes rather than enacting a piece of legislation that focuses on removal of firearms.

I could write pages on all the reasons this bill does not make sense and why it will not make Colorado safer. Ultimately, this bill is a poorly disguised attempt to target the possession of firearms by Colorado residents. It is being said this is a mental health bill, but these extreme risk protection orders do not require a person to seek help, counseling, or any other form of mental health assistance. This simply requires the surrender of firearms and places an incredible burden on your law enforcement professionals.

If a person is a threat to themselves or others and their firearms are removed, this does not mean they are no longer a threat and certainly does not address the underlying issues that led to the person being dangerous. In our current mental health hold statutes, law enforcement is able to remove the person in crisis and take them to a mental health or hospital facility. This addresses the needs of the person rather than targeting firearms while completely ignoring other items that a person may utilize as a danger to themselves or others.

This bill is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face of individual liberty. It requires law enforcement to seize or a citizen to surrender their personal property BEFORE there is a finding greater than the low legal standard of a preponderance of evidence. It also requires a higher legal standard of clear and convincing evidence in order to restore the right to possess firearms. This process is ripe for abuse and does not set the legal bar high enough for government intrusion, seizure of a person's personal property, and the infringement of a person’s 2nd Amendment Right.

I believe there is a high potential that this may lead to more armed confrontations between citizens and law enforcement. Whatever problems were present that may have led to the issuance of the extreme risk protection order, law enforcement would now be directed by the court to serve the extreme risk protection order and request the individual surrender their firearms. If a citizen refuses they may be subject to criminal charges. This process has the potential to criminalize a mental health issue. This will compound the problem rather than provide assistance to a person in crisis.

This bill does not make law enforcement professionals or our Colorado citizens safer and I will continue to work to find an alternate solution to assist those in crisis without targeting firearms. Please join with me in contacting your Colorado Senators asking them to vote against this bill. This bill has not become law and there is still time to work on preventing it from passing.”

-Sheriff Matt Lewis