The Republican candidate for Colorado attorney general, George Brauchler, is now more skeptical than he was this spring of legislation allowing law enforcement officials to ask the courts for permission to take guns from people deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.
His new assessment of so-called “red flag” legislation comes in the wake of what he sees as the abuse of such laws, like one in Broward County, Florida, convincing him that the focus should be on mental health care not a red flag bill.
“I don’t think my position has changed from the one that I took versus now,” Brauchler told the Colorado Times Recorder when asked to clarify statements he made on a KNUS radio show. “The difference is, we have more information about how something like this can be used.”
“I said at the time, I am skeptical of giving the government this kind of authority,” he continued. “And I had preached and pitched to the House Judiciary Committee, ‘Look, I want to sunset this bill,’ in addition to a bunch of other changes, because I wanted to see if it would be abused. And if it’s not, let’s tweak it and make it great.”
“I have absolute faith that [Douglas and Arapahoe County Sheriffs] Tony Spurlock and Dave Walcher would do right by this, but who comes after them, or who comes after the people who come after them?” asked Brauchler. “Once this thing is on the books, does it have the potential to be abused? And I think the answer that we’ve seen now is, yeah, it does. So we have to figure out another way to tackle this problem without taking on the Second Amendment.”
Colorado’s version of red flag legislation was defeated in May by senate Republicans–after clearing the state house in a 37-23 vote, with support mostly from Democrats but some Republicans as well, like Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist (R-Centennial), who was a sponsor of the bill.
At the time, Brauchler defended the red-flag bill in high-profile arguments with fellow conservatives, like State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), who accused Brauchler of being scared to oppose the bill, which, Neville said, could lead to “possibly taking away people’s kitchen knives or whatever else they have in their home. This is insane. But, yeah, it’s politicians. Some take a look and they run their campaigns by polls… Could that possibly be some of the motivation for George Brauchler?”
But Brauchler stuck to his guns, even earning praise from the liberal blog ColoradoPols for taking a gun-safety stand that’s “toxic to his base of support.”
Brauchler now says the red-flag legislation around the country is proving the fears of Second Amendment supporters to be true, that the law could be “ripe for abuse in the wrong hands.”
“I don’t think Colorado can go that direction—or should to in that direction—if we have the ability to tackle this same problem without having to confront the Second Amendment,” Brauchler said.
Red-flag bill proponents argue that the gun confiscations in Broward County, show that the law is working. Since the law was passed there after the Parkland high school massacre, through July, 108 gun confiscations occurred, including 28 relating to domestic violence, 45 connected to mental illness, and 34 relating specifically to people contemplating suicide.
“I want to stay away from taking on the Second Amendment and really focus on, how can we really help people and keep them from hurting themselves and others, whether it’s by a gun or a car or whatever,” said Brauchler.
Listen to Brauchler on KNUS 710-AM Sept. 25: