Problem Solvers’ Guide to obtaining an extreme risk protection order in Colorado

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DENVER -- Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, Colorado's Red Flag law will take effect. So, what is the process for taking guns away from someone believed to be a threat?

Who can seek an extreme risk protection order (ERPO)?

The state has posted detailed information on its website about  how any Colorado citizen can apply for an ERPO against a gun owner if the citizen feels the gun owner may be a threat to themselves or others. The person filing the ERPO must meet at least one of the following qualifications:

▪ The person is related by blood, marriage or adoption to the gun owner.
▪ The person has a child or children in common with the gun owner (regardless of marriage or whether they have lived with the gun owner at any time).
▪ The person regularly resides or has regularly resided with the gun owner within the last six months.
▪ The person is a domestic partner of the gun owner.
▪ The person has a biological or legal parent-child relationship with the gun owner (including stepparents and stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren).
▪ The person is acting or has acted as the gun owner’s legal guardian.
▪ The person is the spouse or former spouse of the gun owner.
▪ In the past the person has been in or is presently in an unmarried couple relationship with the gun owner.

In addition to regular citizens, law enforcement can also request an ERPO.

What forms do you fill out? 

The main form is five pages long.

It asks questions about your relationship to the gun owner, what conditions the person may be suffering from, and the location and type of firearms the person owns.

Where do you turn in forms? 

According to Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, the clerk at your local courthouse is where a regular citizen can seek an ERPO.

"If a citizen wants to do that, the process by law is to come to the court and the court would make a decision at that point if they would turn it over to the sheriff's office," Spurlock said.

How is an ERPO issued? 

A judge will decide if someone initially meets the criteria to have his or her guns taken away. This first hearing will be conducted ex parte, without the gun owner present.

A judge can decide if the situation warrants the sheriff and his or her deputies moving in to take guns away immediately without the gun owner's knowledge and before a notice to appear in court can be given to the gun owner.

Who will represent the gun owner in court? 

The state has set aside funds to have attorneys on standby to represent gun owners. Each judicial district has been compiling a list.

Attorney Claire McGuire Elster is just one Colorado attorney who has signed up to represent gun owners when an ERPO is issued against them. Elster says within 14 days of the first ERPO hearing, a gun owner has the right to request a judge for their guns back.

"It's our job to make sure due process is held," McGuire Elster said, adding, "Each individual respondent will be different, obviously, but I expect most clients will want to maintain their right to have firearms."

Where would guns go and how long can they be stored?

ERPOs can last for 364 days and in most cases, local law enforcement will store the guns. In some cases, however, guns can be stored with antique dealers and gun sellers.

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