A Colorado inmate has filed a “red flag” complaint against his prison guards for carrying shotguns, which he complained were “intimidating and excessively abusing inmates.”
Leo Crispin registered the petition on Feb. 19 under the state’s 2019 “extreme risk protection order” law. Crispin claimed the jail was his household and Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and his deputies, who oversee the facility, posed a risk to himself and others as a result of being armed.
Judge James F. Hartman dismissed the petition out of hand the following week. In his decision, Hartman wrote that Crispin’s claims did not “even warrant a hearing.”
The judge also noted that the shotguns carried by the jail deputies contain less-than-lethal projectiles.
Reams, who has been a vocal opponent of Colorado’s red flag law, said in a statement Friday that he only heard about Crispin’s petition after it had already been dismissed.
“I would argue the system failed because this inmate was able to exploit the legislation’s loose definition of a ‘household’ to levy the petition in the first place,” he said.
What it means when an inmate cries “red flag” law
Nevertheless, the case highlighted a national controversy surrounding red flag gun-control laws, which have been enacted in a growing list of U.S. states. The laws allow judges to temporarily seize weapons from people they deem to be violent threat. The accused may not have committed any crime, and often is not given an opportunity to defend himself.
Connecticut was the first state to enact a red flag law in 1999, followed by Indiana in 2005. The idea gained momentum over the past decade, getting codified in California, Washington and Oregon.
In the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the number of states with such laws on the books doubled. When New Mexico enacts its version of the law in July, it will bring the tally to 18. Six other states have similar legislation pending.
However, many local governments and officials have defied the laws and other gun-control regulations. Among them is Weld County.
As Colorado’s red flag bill made its way through the legislature last March, the Weld County Commission unanimously passed a resolution to become a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” The measure excused law enforcement officers from complying with state gun laws that the commission and the officers see as unconstitutional.
A national movement
Reams, like a number of his counterparts in other states, vowed at the time not to enforce Colorado’s red flag law.
“What I’m refusing to do is enforce a law, [which] I believe, and I believe my constituent base is in agreement,” he said. “I can’t enforce a law I believe goes against our state constitution or our federal Constitution.”