Gun Culture

Law That Might Have Taken Boulder King Soopers Shooter's Guns at Risk

A Ruger AR-556 pistol of the sort the Boulder King Soopers shooting suspect purchased six days before the attack.
A Ruger AR-556 pistol of the sort the Boulder King Soopers shooting suspect purchased six days before the attack.
According to the brother of Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the accused Boulder King Soopers shooter has been mentally ill for years. But Colorado's so-called Red Flag law, which created a mechanism for taking weapons from individuals considered a danger to themselves and others, is currently the target of a lawsuit filed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group opposed to restrictions on firearms.

RMGO contends that the theory behind its complaint is essentially the same as the one accepted by the Colorado Supreme Court on March 15, when the judges turned thumbs-down on speed-reading computer technology used by Democrats in 2019 to comply with a Republican demand that every word of a more than 2,000-page death-penalty bill be recited aloud. The request was clearly an attempt to delay certain measures from coming to a vote through an irritating technicality, but a 4-3 majority of the court ruled that because the provision appears in the Colorado Constitution, it has to be obeyed, and without the use of technology that renders the words unintelligible.

In celebrating that decision, Dudley Brown, president of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, predicted that the ruling would have a direct impact on a complaint that his group had filed against the Red Flag law. "Our lawsuit is very similar to this," he stressed.

The Red Flag lawsuit, submitted in May 2019 by attorney Barry Arrington, certainly bears out this assertion. The document quotes from this section of the Colorado Constitution's fifth article: "Every bill shall be read by title when introduced, and at length on two different days in each house; provided, however, any reading at length may be dispensed with upon unanimous consent of the members present. All substantial amendments made thereto shall be printed for the use of the members before the final vote is taken on the bill, and no bill shall become a law except by a vote of the majority of all members elected to each house taken on two separate days in each house, nor unless upon its final passage the vote be taken by ayes and noes and the names of those voting be entered on the journal."

The text adds that these requirements "are mandatory. If either house fails to abide by these requirements in enacting a law, the law so enacted is invalid."

"Now, I don’t want to claim a full-blown victory yet, because we all know how things can shake out in court," Dudley said in the wake of the Colorado Supreme Court's March 15 order. "But this ruling is a big step in the right direction. Patriot, I am more confident than ever we will WIN our Red Flag lawsuit in the Colorado Court of Appeals."

There's no evidence that Alissa's family tried to use the Red Flag law to try to take away his guns; thus far, no evidence confirms that he'd been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Moreover, RMGO executive director Taylor Rhodes described the Boulder King Soopers attack as an "act of terror" in a March 23 statement. As noted by the Washington Post, theories that the shooter was "a jihadist or anti-Trump terrorist" — the sort of designation that might distract from calls for gun-law reforms — have been on the rise in the day since authorities identified Alissa, who was born in Syria but came to the United States at age three, as the suspected shooter.

Still, one key Colorado law intended to prevent mass shootings was already junked earlier this month: A Boulder District Court judge tossed out the city's assault-weapons ban on March 12, ten days before the shooting at King Soopers. According to Alissa's arrest affidavit, he purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol like the one reportedly used at the King Soopers shooting four days later, on March 16. The City of Boulder is expected to appeal the ruling.

Click to read Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, et al., v. Jared Polis.