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Gay club shooting suspect evaded Colorado’s red flag gun law

A Colorado Springs community service vehicle is parked Sunday near a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where a shooting occurred late Saturday night.

Geneva Heffernan / AP

A year and a half before he was arrested in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting that left five people dead, Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a pipe bomb, forcing neighbors in surrounding homes to evacuate while the demining team and crisis negotiators were talking to him. by surrendering.

Yet despite this fear, there is no public record that prosecutors pursued the kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich, or that police or relatives attempted to trigger the government’s “red flag” law. Colorado that allegedly allowed authorities to seize the guns and ammunition from the man’s mother. said he had with him.

Gun control advocates say Aldrich’s June 2021 threat is an example of a red flag law being ignored, with potentially deadly consequences. Although it is not clear, the law could have prevented Saturday night attack – such gun seizures can be in effect for as little as 14 days and be extended by a judge in six-month increments – they say this would have at least slowed Aldrich and raised his profile with ISIS forces order.

“We need heroes beforehand — parents, co-workers, friends who see someone going down this path,” said Colorado State Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora Theater shooting. and sponsored the state’s Red Flag Act passed in 2019. “That should have alerted them, put it on their radar.”

But the law that allows guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others has rarely been used in the state, especially in El Paso County, home to Colorado Springs, where Aldrich, 22, allegedly went to Club Q with a long gun just before midnight and opened fire before being overpowered by patrons.

A Associated Press analysis found that Colorado has one of the lowest rates of red flag use despite widespread gun ownership and several high-profile mass shootings.

Courts have issued 151 gun surrender orders since the law took effect in April 2019 through 2021, three surrender orders for every 100,000 adults in the state. That’s one-third the ratio of orders issued for the 19 states and the District of Columbia with assignment laws on their books.

El Paso County seems particularly hostile to the law. He joined nearly 2,000 counties nationwide in declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” that protect the constitutional right to bear arms, passing a 2019 resolution that the Red Flag Act “infringes on the inalienable rights of law-abiding citizens” by ordering the police to “forcefully enter premises and seize a citizen’s property without any evidence of a crime. »

County Sheriff Bill Elder said his office will wait for family members to ask a court for restraining orders and will not seek them on his own unless there are “circumstances.” urgent” and “probable cause” of a crime.

El Paso County, with a population of 730,000, had 13 temporary gun recalls through the end of last year, four of which turned into longer recalls of at least six month.

The county sheriff’s office declined to comment on what happened after Aldrich was arrested last year, including whether anyone had asked to have his guns removed. The Press release issued by the sheriff’s office at the time stated that no explosives had been found, but did not mention whether any weapons had been recovered.

Spokeswoman Lt. Deborah Mynatt referred further questions about the case to the district attorney’s office.

A search of online court records revealed no formal charges against Aldrich in last year’s case. And in an update on a story about the bomb threat, The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs reported that prosecutors have not pursued any charges in the case and the records have been sealed.

The Gazette also reported Sunday that it received a call from Aldrich in August asking her to delete a story about the incident.

“There is absolutely nothing to it, the case has been dropped and I ask that you delete or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voicemail to an editor. “The whole case has been thrown out.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office, Howard Black, declined to say whether charges had been filed. He said the shooting investigation will also include a review of the bomb threat.

“No additional information will be released at this time,” Black said. “These are still investigative questions.”

AP’s study of 19 states and the District of Columbia with red flag laws on their books found they’ve been used about 15,000 times since 2020, less than 10 times per 100,000 adults in each state. . Experts called that shockingly low and barely enough to reduce gun murders.

Again this year, authorities in Highland Park, Illinois have come under fire for failing to attempt to remove weapons from the 21-year-old accused of a shooting during a July 4 parade that took seven dead. Police were alerted to him in 2019 after he threatened to “kill everyone” in his home.

Duke University sociologist Jeffrey Swanson, an expert on red flag laws, said the Colorado Springs case could be another missed warning sign.

“It seems like a no-brainer, if the mother knew he had guns,” he said. “If you had taken the guns out of the situation, you might have had a different ending to the story.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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