Colorado is gearing up to implement the new “red flag” law that would allow the state to take guns temporarily from people deemed extreme safety risks, but officials still don’t know how many requests they’ll need to field and how the system will work in counties where sheriffs swore they would not enforce it, the Denver Post reports. The law goes into effect Jan. 1 despite vocal opposition from some law enforcement and vows from a handful of sheriffs to ignore it. The biggest unknown is how many of the orders the state’s courts and law enforcement agencies will have to process and what impact that will have on the criminal justice system. “We have really no idea right now what kind of volume we’re looking at,” Denver Police Department division chief Joe Montoya said.
The law allows family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to order a person’s firearms be temporarily confiscated because they pose an immediate safety threat to themselves or others. Once petitioned, the judge must hold a hearing within 24 hours — or the next court day — to determine whether to grant the request. In the 17 states with similar laws, the number of orders filed annually have varied from under 20 to more than 1,300. When calculated based on the states’ population, the rates of orders per 100,000 residents varied from 1.4 in Rhode Island to 20 in Maryland. The law has earned the scorn of a number of Colorado county sheriffs who said it violates residents’ constitutional right to bear arms and cited fears about false reports leading to gun confiscation. If the sheriffs follow through with their threats to defy the law and judges’ orders, each judge will have to decide how to proceed.