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Colorado enacts ‘red flag’ law to seize guns from those deemed dangerous, prompting backlash

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Colorado enacts 'red flag' law to seize guns from those deemed dangerous, prompting backlash

Colorado became the 15th state on Friday to adopt a “red flag” gun law, allowing firearms to be seized from people determined to pose a danger — just weeks after dozens of county sheriffs had vowed not to enforce the law, with some local leaders establishing what they called Second Amendment “sanctuary counties.”

The law didn’t receive a single Republican vote in the state legislature, and has led to renewed efforts from gun-rights activists to recall Democrats who supported the measure. In a fiery and lengthy statement on Facebook on Friday, Eagle County, Colo., Sheriff James van Beek slammed the law as a well-intentioned but “ludicrous” throwback to the 2002 film “Minority Report,” and outlined a slew of objections from law enforcement.

Van Beek charged that the law treats accused gun owners like “criminals,” discourages individuals from seeking mental health treatment, and ignores the reality that “a disturbed mind will not be deterred by the removal of their guns.”

Noting that cities with strict gun laws still experience high murder rates, van Beek asserted: “By removing guns from someone intent on committing suicide or murder, we still have the danger of someone who may be unbalanced, now, angrier than before, and looking for another means … explosives, poisons, knives, car incidents of mowing down groups of unsuspecting innocent.”

Colorado’s law, approved by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, allows family, household members or law enforcement to petition a court to have guns seized or surrendered based on a showing that someone poses a danger under the “preponderance of the evidence,” a civil standard which means that the defendant is more likely than not to be a threat.

“In other words, there is just over a 50/50 chance of accuracy,” van Beek wrote, noting that someone’s guns could be seized even without a mental health professional making a determination of any kind. “Like the flip of a coin. Couldn’t that apply to just about anything a person does?”

A subsequent court hearing could extend a gun seizure up to 364 days, and gun owners can only retain their guns if they meet a burden of demonstrating by “clear and convincing evidence” — a much higher standard — that they are not in fact a threat. Gun owners, van Beek said, are “guilty until proven innocent” under this framework.

Minority Republicans in the legislature had unsuccessfully tried to shift the burden of proof to the petitioner.

The law’s passage marked a personal victory for first-term Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was gunned down in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre that killed 12 people and wounded 70 others. The bill is slated to take effect in January.

“Three hundred and fifty one Fridays since Alex was murdered,” Sullivan began, wearing his son’s leather bomber jacket at the signing ceremony for the bill he sponsored.

“Being the parent of a murdered child, everything is stunted,” Sullivan said, prompting knowing, tearful nods from several other shooting survivors standing behind him. “I am elated, believe me. It just can’t come out because there is just too much work in front of us to get done.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, speaks as Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Aurora, looks on before Polis signs a bill to allow Colorado to become the 15th state in the union to adopt a "red flag" gun law allowing firearms to be taken from people who pose a danger during a ceremony Friday, April 12, 2019, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, speaks as Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Aurora, looks on before Polis signs a bill to allow Colorado to become the 15th state in the union to adopt a “red flag” gun law allowing firearms to be taken from people who pose a danger during a ceremony Friday, April 12, 2019, in the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Alex Sullivan was celebrating his 27th birthday at the theater. Tom Sullivan, elected to the House in November, has devoted his life since Aurora to counseling survivors of other mass shootings around the country and campaigning for gun control.

CALIFORNIA GUN SEIZURE PROGRAM HITS HURDLES

Responding in part to Sullivan’s remarks, van Beek emphasized his own county’s work on establishing partnerships to combat mental illness, which he characterized as a practical solution. The Aurora theater shooter, James Holmes, long suffered from mental illness.

“The Red Flag Law can remind one, of the movie ‘Minority Report’; regulating against what we think someone might do,” van Beek wrote. “It’s like regulating via clairvoyance, but in this case, we actually take away someone’s property and require them to go to court to prove their innocence of a crime that hasn’t been committed, yet they were punished because someone thought they might be thinking about it.”

The sheriff continued: “I find no mental health programs associated with this law. Just a possible overreach of well-meaning citizens, with no infrastructure for addressing the primary intention of the law: mental health as it relates to public safety.”

From left, Tylecia Amos, 14, Shatyra Amos, 15, Michael Walker, 17, and Mykia Walker, 16, carry flowers to lay at a makeshift memorial across the street from the Century Theater parking lot, on Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in the attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

From left, Tylecia Amos, 14, Shatyra Amos, 15, Michael Walker, 17, and Mykia Walker, 16, carry flowers to lay at a makeshift memorial across the street from the Century Theater parking lot, on Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in the attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, “Dark Knight Rises.” Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
(The Associated Press)

Van Beek’s post concluded by arguing that Colorado’s law violated the Second Amendment. However, van Beek explicitly stopped short of declaring sanctuary county status, and suggested his office would enforce the law.

“Removing the guns in a constitutionally questionable manner, without notice, denying the accused the ability to defend charges, then requiring medical services that are not available, in order to reinstate private property rights, afterward, is like putting a Band-Aid on the probability of a wound, and not allowing its removal until an injury has occurred,” he wrote. “In other words, the entire process is ludicrous.”

Van Beek added: “I stand with other Sheriffs in opposition to the Red Flag law on constitutional grounds as well as its failure to address the true issues, which are behavioral and mental health. In addition, it places fiscal hardships on county budgets, places law enforcement officials in imminent danger, violates citizen’s rights, and actually works against the mental health concerns that it was originally designed to aid.”

“The entire process is ludicrous.”

— Eagle County, Colo. Sheriff James van Beek

Florida passed its own “extreme risk protection order” law after the 2018 Parkland school massacre. Others with versions of the law include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state, as well as Washington, D.C.

“Colorado has endured more than our fair share of tragedies,” Polis said Friday. This law will not prevent every shooting, but it can be used in a targeted way to make sure that those who are suffering from a mental health crisis are able to temporarily have a court order in place that helps make sure they don’t harm themselves or others. Today we may be saving the life of your nephew, your niece, your grandchild.”

Gun rights activists pushed for Polis and some Democrats who supported the legislation to be recalled. Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat, voted against the bill — primarily, observers said, because his predecessor was recalled in 2013 for supporting the state’s last major gun control push.

That 2013 legislation implemented background checks and ammunition magazine limits, following the Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. In all, two Democratic lawmakers were recalled and another resigned for supporting those laws.

About half of Colorado’s 64 counties — most in rural areas — passed resolutions opposing the new bill and declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”

Opposition from rural sheriffs elicited a warning last month from Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser, who has said those who won’t enforce the law should resign.

The law is named after Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish III, a 29-year old husband and father who was killed on New Year’s Eve 2017 by a man who had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior.

Parrish’s boss, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle attended. Pelle’s son, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, was wounded in the shooting that killed Parrish.

Pelle said he was working with Spurlock and other law enforcement chiefs to develop protocols for executing protective orders safely.

Co-sponsor Alec Garnett, a Democrat and the House majority leader, noted that Colorado’s law stands out for providing legal representation for gun owners.

“We have come a long way in this state from Columbine,” Garnett said, referring to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre.

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Separately, a prosecutor refused to approve criminal charges Friday against Pittsburgh’s mayor and six City Council members over the passage of firearms restrictions that gun rights advocates say are blatant and deliberate violations of state law.

Seven city residents tried to file private criminal complaints against Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto, who signed the legislation into law this week, and council members who voted to approve the bills. The complaints charge the mayor and council with official oppression and other counts.

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cindy McCain responds to reports that her family will endorse Joe Biden in 2020 race

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Cindy McCain responds to reports that her family will endorse Joe Biden in 2020 race

Cindy McCain, the widow of late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded to the reports that her family will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

McCain tweeted Wednesday: “Joe Biden is a wonderful man and dear friend of the McCain Family. However, I have no intention of getting involved in presidential politics.”

Her daughter, “The View” host Meghan McCain retweeted the remarks.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

Biden officially announced his candidacy for president Thursday in a video message, capping off weeks of reports that he will join the crowded Democratic field. Biden unsuccessfully ran for president in 1988 and 2008.

McCain’s comment comes after a report in the Washington Examiner that said the McCain family would support Biden. The report cited sources close to the family.

“The source said they expected Meghan McCain to speak out in favor of Biden should he get the nomination, but a Cindy McCain endorsement could come sooner,” according to the Washington Examiner.

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During the 2016 presidential election, Sen. John McCain withdrew his support for then-candidate Donald Trump following the “Access Hollywood” tape. Trump recently criticized McCain by saying he was not “a fan” of the late senator. McCain died in August 2018 after a battle with cancer. Trump has made a habit of attacking McCain, even after his death.

Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this report.

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Ocasio-Cortez-aligned group attacks Biden, says he’s ‘out-of-touch’ with Democratic Party

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Joe Biden announces 2020 presidential bid: 3 things to know about the former vice president

A progressive political group that boosted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s bid for Congress last year vowed to oppose former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, blasting him as part of the “old guard” and accusing him of standing in opposition to the “center of energy” in the Democratic Party.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

“While we’re going to support the Democratic nominee, we can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t,’” the group Justice Democrats said Thursday.

Biden announced his candidacy for president Thursday. He enters a crowded field of Democratic contenders aiming to unseat President Trump — nearly 32 years after he announced his first campaign for president. The campaign is Biden’s third bid for the White House, having also unsuccessfully run in 1988 and 2008.

“The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” Justice Democrats said. “The party needs new leadership with a bold vision capable of energizing voters in the Democratic base who stayed home in 2016.”

The group added: “Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.”

BIDEN’S SENATE RECORDS HELD BY HIS ALMA MATER WON’T BE RELEASED UNTIL LATE 2019, POSSIBLY EVEN LATER

“Democrats are increasingly uniting around progressive populist policies like ‘Medicare-for-All,’ a Green New Deal, free college, rejecting corporate money, ending mass incarceration and deportation. We don’t need someone who voted for the Iraq War, for mass incarceration, and for the Bankruptcy Reform Act while voting against gay marriage, reproductive rights, and school desegregation,” Justice Democrats said.

Others, though, took issue with the group’s claim about the energy in the party.

“It’s probably worth noting that while this group, Justice Democrats, calls Biden ‘out-of-touch’ with the ‘center of energy’ in the Democratic Party, only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election,” said Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight.

According to its website, Justice Democrats says its mission is “to elect a new type of Democratic majority in Congress, one which will create a thriving economy and democracy that works for the people, not big money interests.”

The attacks could foreshadow the looming clash between the progressive and establishment wings of the party: Biden, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who enjoys the support of Democratic Socialists in the party — have consistently topped the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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Cory Booker’s tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

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Cory Booker's tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker’s tax returns show most of his wealth stems from lucrative speaking engagements and royalties.

Booker, the 2020 candidate who has yet to make a splash in the crowded Democratic field, released 10 years of tax returns on Wednesday after numerous other candidates released their records in recent weeks.

WHO ARE THE WEALTHIEST 2020 DEMS? WITH TAX RETURNS IN, THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU

The New Jersey senator reported income of $152,715 in 2018 for his salary, $22,781 in taxes which amounts to an effective tax rate of 15 percent, significantly lower than Sen. Kamala Harris’ 37 percent or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 26 percent.

Most of Booker’s wealth comes public speaking fees and royalties, including $2 million in speaking fees between 2009 and 2014, nearly $1 million in royalties from 2015 to 2017 after the release of his book, “United.”

But the lower effective tax rate may have something to with Booker’s sizeable charitable donations. In 2018, he donated $24,000 to charity. In total over the 10-year period, the senator donated nearly $460,000 to various organizations and causes.

BETO O’ROURKE CONFRONTED AT TOWN HALL ABOUT STINGY CHARITABLE DONATIONS

This appears to be significantly more in proportion than his opponents like Sanders or former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who faced questions over his household giving to charity just $1,166 in 2017, or about 0.3 percent of their income that year.

At the same time, more than half of those donations made by Booker came in 2013 amid criticism of his role in the founding of a social media company called Waywire, prompting him to give massive amounts of stock to charities in his city.

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The New York Times revealed that Booker’s wealth at the time – $5 million – consisted mostly of shares in the company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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