Members of the Colorado House of Representative’s GOP caucus on Monday night pushed back against fellow Republican Rep. Cole Wist over his sponsorship of a “red flag” bill that would allow judges to order the seizure of guns from people who are considered a significant risk to themselves or others.
Assistant House Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, speaks to Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, at the Colorado Capitol on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. The final day of this session of the legislature is May 9, 2018.
The caucus met after House lawmakers finished up a late night of work and just hours after the measure — House Bill 1436 — was introduced. Wist, from Centennial, is the House Republicans’ assistant minority leader, the No. 2 GOP lawmaker in the chamber.
“Like any close family we have arguments,” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said of a caucus meeting where the legislation was discussed. “But like any close family we’re still united at the end of the day.”
Wist has joined Assistant House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, in sponsoring the red flag bill, which has backing from Republicans outside of the Colorado Capitol — including sheriffs, a prominent prosecutor and a congressman. But the legislation faces a rocky path as this year’s legislative session wraps up in just over a week, particularly given the partisan split in the Colorado General Assembly and the historically contentious nature of gun legislation.
Major gun control legislation has not been passed the Colorado legislature since 2013, when two Democratic senators were recalled by voters for their support of the measures.
Adding to the red flag bill’s uncertain future is Senate Republicans skepticism towards the measure and the clear divide between Wist and Neville on the legislation.
“A lot of the discussion last night was to the bill, and there was a lot of misinformation about what the bill was going to be,” Neville said. “Once it was introduced, there was a lot of red flags — so to say — a lot of problems with it. A lot.”
Neville said he doesn’t support the bill “one bit.” He feels it disproportionately attacks veterans and could lead to further stigma for those seeking mental health treatment while lacking in due process protections and putting gun rights at risk.
All the while, Neville downplayed the contention at Monday night’s meeting.
“At the end of the day we just all came together and had a very civilized discussion itself on the bill itself and the merits of the bill,” he said.
Wist is facing pressure from outside of the Capitol, as well, on the legislation. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, an ardent gun-rights political group, took to Facebook to attack him and other Republicans backing the measure, calling the legislation a “Gun Confiscation Act” and nicknaming Wist “Cole the Mole.”
Democrats defended Wist on Tuesday.
“I applaud Rep. Wist for stepping up, taking stand — representing his district, representing a majority of Coloradans — in saying this is something we should and can find bipartisan support for,” House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Bouder, told reporters.
The legislation is named after Douglas County sheriff’s Deputy Zachari Parrish who was killed late last year by a man with well-documented mental health struggles.