Last week I read the Herald’s Sept. 26 cover story about the public meeting on Colorado House Bill 1177 (the “Red Flag” gun law). That same day, I went to sight in my hunting rifle at the public shooting range (a terrific public asset – thank you Lake County!). That night I tucked my children into bed and lamented a world in which we need to practice lockdowns and active-shooter scenarios in school. The law, the meeting, the article, gun rights, and gun violence were heavy on my mind.

I have been a gun owner and user since the day my parents deemed me ready to handle the tremendous responsibility. As a third-generation hunting Coloradoan, firearms are part of my heritage, my identity, my blood. I support the use of HB-1177 in our local community for two reasons: both to reduce gun violence, and to preserve access to gun use and ownership for many generations to come.

Like many voices at that public meeting, I fear a day in which extreme gun legislation will impede our right to keep and bear arms. (I also fear my children dying of gunshot wounds.) However, if current trends of gun violence continue, future citizens and future legislators (both state and federal) will surely enact radical measures. How could they not? We saw 779 firearm deaths in Colorado in 2017 (CDC). The Colorado Sun reports 884 gun deaths in 2018. Those numbers mostly aren’t mass-casualty shootings, but rather smaller, more personal violence, like homicide, suicide, and accidents. If we allow this level of lethal gun violence to continue, extreme measures will be taken. It is up to us now to make the most of moderate measures – like HB 1177 – to reduce gun violence for that end in itself, but also so that we can enjoy responsible gun ownership in the future. And yes, we should also invest in mental-health support.

As a firearm user myself, I urge our commissioners and sheriff to not reject this legislation. I trust the sheriff to prioritize enforcement, and would be disappointed to see a resolution discouraging Extreme Risk Protection Orders in our community. This might not be the perfect legislation, but it’s what we’ve got. We can’t afford to wait for better, and we can’t afford to not at least try it. We have two paths before us: one might inconvenience us gun owners for the opportunity to save lives; the other risks continued high death tolls to preserve an increasingly harmful tradition.

If, god forbid, I ever come to a place in life where I am violent, deeply depressed, or untrustworthy, I absolutely want my family to have the right to request an ERPO while we seek any needed help. That’s the level of responsibility and humility gun ownership demands. Others in support of 1177 (especially gun users/owners): please join me at the next public meeting at the county courthouse on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.

Cisco Tharp

Leadville

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