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First legal challenge to red flag law isn't really about the law itself

The first court challenge to Colorado's red flag law does not appear to be about the law itself, but rather over the rules and procedures during the legislature’s debate on the bill.

DENVER — The first court challenge to Colorado's red flag law does not appear to be about the law itself, but rather over the rules and procedures during the legislature’s debate on the bill.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) and State Representatives Lori Saine (R-Firestone), Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) and Steve Humphrey (R-Weld County) joined Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a pro-gun rights organization and lobbying group, to announce the lawsuit on Thursday.

Dudley Brown, RMGO’s executive director, said in a news conference that Colorado Democrats acted illegally and unconstitutionally as they moved the gun control measure through the legislature.

"The Democrats didn't see that they were violating the Constitution to pass a bill to violate the Constitution," Brown said. “If a judge agrees with us, the Constitution will throw this law out and effectively kill the red flag bill."

Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the bill into law last month. It allows for a family member or household member to ask a court to order someone’s guns be taken away. If a judge finds that person is a threat, that person’s guns can be taken away for up to a year, and the gun owner must prove they are no longer a threat to have their guns returned.

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The group behind the lawsuit says that when House Republicans asked for the bill to be read at length on March 1, Democrats in charge refused the request, and then when they complied, they had multiple people start reading the text aloud at once (seen in the linked video, about 28 minutes in). They also say that Democrats wouldn’t allow certain Republican lawmaker amendments to be debated.

9NEWS reviewed two of those amendments, which tried to define "Extreme Risk Protection Order" as dealing with oil and gas and abortion. Democrats denied debate on both amendments because Colorado law requires bills to be about one topic only.

“We are asking the judge to nullify actions take up to now and direct the House of Representatives to follow the Constitution next year if it really wants to pass the law again,” Neville said.

House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver) and Rep. Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) said the House’s 10-hour debate on March 1 was respectful, and that the motions requesting the at-length reads weren’t requested properly.

“The first request was by Representative Williams, and it wasn’t done as a motion. You normally say, 'Mr. Chair, I request that the bill be read at length.’ He just said, ‘let’s read the bill at length,’” Melton said, explaining Saine made her motion similarly.

He explained that Humphrey made his motion appropriately, but then withdrew it. Humphrey's name is not involved in the lawsuit because he went to the mic during the debate and withdrew his request for the bill to be read at length.

Garnett called the lawsuit frivolous.

“This is not about what happened on the floor. This is about the gun lobby trying to unwind a very popular measure to help protect and save lives here in Colorado because they like to build their name recognition, and they like to be in the news," he said.

Brown said this will be the first of many red flag challenges from RMGO. The group also wants to fund an effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). Sullivan, whose son Alex died in the Aurora theater shooting, co-sponsored the bill.

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