DENVER (KDVR) — State senators worked through Friday night – then representatives worked Saturday evening – all of them putting in extra hours to vote on bills designed to reduce gun violence.
Four bills, all dealing with guns, have cleared committee and floor votes in their first chambers. Impacted groups are weighing in about what the new measures could mean for them.
After hours of debate, the bill that would introduce a three-day waiting period for guns cleared the Colorado House over the weekend and now heads to the Senate.
Monday, three more cleared the Senate and will go to the House: one giving gun violence victims more avenues to sue gun manufacturers, a second increasing the age for buying long guns from 18 to 21, and a third adding professions like teachers and mental health experts to the list of folks who can petition for an extreme risk protection order under the state’s red flag law.
The debate over expanding Colorado’s red flag law
Colorado’s branch of the American Federation of Teachers is supporting the measure giving licensed teachers the ability to petition a court to keep someone from buying firearms.
“If there’s anything we can do to save one of our students from hurting themselves, we want to be a part of it,” said Kallie Leyba, of AFT Colorado.
Some opponents have raised concerns that teachers and mental health professionals in schools may not be qualified or may use the option for retaliation.
“Teachers are professionals. We care about our students first and foremost — that is always going to be what drives the decisions that we make and we are not going to use this vindictively. And if some teacher did, or some police officer or medical professional, the judge would see that,” Leyba said.
Mental Health Colorado is taking a neutral stance on the red flag law expansion measure. The organization praised the effort to reduce gun violence but worried adding therapists to the list of petitioners could deter gun owners from seeking therapy.
“On the one hand we want to acknowledge that therapists are often the ones to first hear the expression of risks,” said Vincent Atchity, with Mental Health Colorado. “We’re a little bit concerned that the extension of that petitioner role to the therapist may serve as a further deterrent to some men who may need care and seek care.”
“I’m not sure whether it really will serve as a deterrent to access, because many people to begin with are not fully aware of the extreme risk protection order, and expanded petitioner capacity role may not be something people become aware of,” Atchity said.
While some opponents are worried too many people will be able to petition for an extreme risk protection order, advocates said they hope more people are added to the list of petitioners before the measure heads to Gov. Jared Polis.
Senate President Steve Fenberg, bill sponsor, told FOX31 on Friday that he is not sure the bill will see significant additions this year, but it will be an ongoing conversation for years to come.