Club Q Shooting Part 2: How The Murderer Slipped Through The Cracks Of "Red Flag" Gun Laws
You come to find out that the elected law officials of Colorado really detest gun restrictions.
Colorado has an unfortunately long history of mass shootings/gun violence. From Columbine in 1999 to the Aurora movie theater in 2012 to the more recent tragedy at Club Q in Colorado Springs, this state has been subjected to more carnage than should be legally allowed. I mean, it's a shame there aren't any gun control measures on the books that could have helped prevent the senseless slaying at Q; perhaps a "red flag" law or the like?
Though dripping with sarcasm, that last sentence made me nauseous to write. Nauseous because when you learn about the violent history of the shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich (who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns), in conjunction with the level of ease with which they were able to slip through the cracks of Colorado’s red flag gun control law, it makes you sick.
Passed in 2019, Colorado’s red flag law is meant to allow the temporary confiscation of firearms from people who are deemed to be an “extreme risk” to themselves or others. Under the law, the orders can be requested by law enforcement officers or by a person’s family members, but they can only be issued by a judge.
The process begins when the officer or family members file a petition for a temporary “extreme risk protection order,” or ERPO with the court. The petitioner has to provide evidence of the need for the ERPO, signing an affidavit under oath and providing a “reasonable basis for believing” those facts exist.
After the evidence is submitted, the court must hold a hearing within one business day. A judge will decide whether a preponderance of the evidence supports the case for removing weapons. That means the evidence must show the argument is “more probably true than not.” If so, the judge can issue a temporary protection order, which stays in effect for a maximum of 14 days. The respondent then has to surrender their firearms to law enforcement. After this initial removal of firearms, there are additional hearings where a judge can extend the time frame for 364 days.
In the case of Aldrich, once the threats of death via a homemade bomb became involved, every one of these steps should have been followed to a T.
According to a press release posted online last year by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, deputies responded to a report of a bomb threat on Rubicon Drive in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood of Colorado Springs on the afternoon of June 18, 2021. A woman called, saying "her son was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition," the sheriff's office said. She was not at home at the time and was not sure where Aldrich was.
Deputies were deployed to the woman's home and realized that the suspect wasn’t at the residence. A tactical support unit was called in and approximately 10 homes in the immediate surrounding area were evacuated, while an emergency notification was sent to the cellphones of residents within a quarter-mile radius, according to the sheriff's office. What makes this event even more disturbing is when you watch the Ring doorbell video obtained by the AP. In it you see Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door with a big black bag the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police were nearby and adding, “This is where I stand. Today I die.” After being detained, the sheriff’s office stated that Aldrich was charged with two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping.
Yet, for reasons that have never been clarified in any kind of press release or statement, prosecutors declined to pursue the case against Aldrich. Not only that, but all the records pertaining to the bomb threat were sealed from public viewing.
When asked about this at a press conference shortly after the massacre at Club Q, the county sheriff’s office declined to answer what happened after Aldrich’s arrest, including whether anyone asked to have their weapons removed. The press release issued by the sheriff’s office at the time said no explosives were found but did not mention anything about whether any weapons were recovered.
When I found out that the shooting was carried out by weaponry that was legally purchased, two questions came to mind immediately. How can a person with such extremely violent tendencies get away with threatening to blow up a city block and not be on some database somewhere that would trigger a warning to anyone trying to sell them a gun? And why didn’t law enforcement take a more proactive approach to monitor this threat to society?
Spoiler alert: nothing was done because nobody wanted to do anything. Well, that’s a half-truth—the citizens of Colorado definitely want something done. The elected law enforcement officials … not so much.
A poll done in early November (before the midterm elections) by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Victory Fund found the evidence was clear: Coloradoans want to feel safe. The poll found that voters believe their state’s gun laws should be made stronger, not weaker by a 4:1 margin. This seems to align with the growing sentiment of the nation at large as polling conducted in June this year by Morning Consult/Politico found that nationally, 68% of voters back stricter gun laws.
Since tougher gun control is what the citizens want, then you know Colorado sheriffs statewide are doing their best to fulfill the wishes of their charges, aren’t they?
Though 19 states (plus Washington D.C.), have red flag laws, Colorado authorities have used the law far less often than in other states, according to an Associated Press analysis. For example, Florida’s rate of issuance was ten times higher than Colorado’s. Yes, you read that right. One of the reddest, most Second Amendment-friendly states has been better at keeping guns out of the hands of those deemed most dangerous to society than the ocean-blue of the Centennial State.
It’s when you see what some of our own elected officials have said about the red flag laws that the reasons behind its minimal amount of usage become clear. Though the most notorious claim comes from the Republican Sheriff of Weld County Steve Reams when he said he would risk a contempt of court citation rather than enforcing a judge’s order to confiscate guns, his feelings aren’t merely his own. Montezuma, Custer, Otero, and Fremont Counties joined Weld County in passing resolutions opposing the red flag laws shortly after they passed in 2019. Opponents of the red flag laws say that about half of the counties in the state have passed similar resolutions, with all declaring their counties as “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
To know that the lives of those innocent people lost at Club Q were due to a combination of prosecutorial discretion gone awry mixed with elected officials statewide who most likely wouldn’t have done anything to keep a gun out of the shooter’s hands in the first place should chill you to the core. It does me.
In the oppositional stance, the one thing I keep looking at with utter disgust is the “Second Amendment sanctuary” title. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what the argument always devolves to whenever lives are taken from a mass shooting: “they’re going to take our guns.”
I want to put this argument to bed.
Right now, in America, the average citizen—with proper registration—can buy a bazooka. Yes, grenade and rocket launchers (a.k.a. bazookas) are classified as “firearms” by The National Firearms Act. Though states themselves may have certain regulations when it comes to owning a bazooka, as far as the federal government is concerned, rocket launchers are perfectly legal. So, when looking at this logically, wouldn’t the government take away bazookas first if they were serious about removing the ability of the common man to defend themselves against a tyrannical regime?
Of course, to about half of the country, the answer is no. To these people, it makes complete sense that the government would start with guns, as this would weaken the people before going after the serious weaponry. It’s these people that have helped ensure we have sheriffs who refuse to enforce a law that would save lives. It’s these people who sickeningly think their guns need safety and protection like a human being. It’s too bad they never stopped to realize that while their hunk of metal may have a sanctuary, for those who witnessed/survived the slaughter at Club Q, their sanctuary is no more.