Jared Polis wants to pass a red flag bill in Colorado and doesn’t plan on backing down from transition team picks

“The time for political argument is over.”
5 min. read
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis speaks during a Bernie Sanders rally at CU Boulder, Oct. 24, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Governor-elect Jared Polis is looking forward to working with the General Assembly to pass a so-called red flag bill he hopes will help prevent gun violence and reduce suicides in the state.

And he has no plans on backing away from some of his transition team picks, which have garnered criticism.

Polis said in an interview with Denverite this week that the red flag bill, which would put a temporary hold on allowing people access to firearms, will help prevent violent crimes in Colorado. Polis said he will be working out details to ensure its a "workable" bill that addresses people in a mental health crisis. It's a bill Democratic legislators have said they will be supporting.

"We're focused on making a red flag law that will work for Colorado," Polis said. He added he's heard firsthand from parents of young people "having a mental health breakdown or crisis" who fear they might harm themselves.

A similar bill failed to pass the legislature earlier this year despite bipartisan support. The bill was supported by law enforcement officers who believed such a law could have prevented violent crimes like the shooting death of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish.

But Polis doesn't necessarily foresee additional gun legislation beyond a red flag bill, at least not at the moment.

He does see potentially looking into increased security for stores selling firearms, including beefing up security requirements to prevent smash-and-grab theft that could result in guns falling into the wrong hands. Such a proposal, which could include requiring added physical barriers or closed-circuit cameras, would need to be mindful of the costs for small businesses.

Protesters crowd beneath the State House in protest of a lack of funding for schools, April 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The bill is on a lengthy to-do list for Polis, who will be sworn in January.

"There's a myriad of issues," Polis said. "We want to fix our roads and traffic, improve the schools, (reduce) violence in the community...these are all things that, of course, Coloradans want us to care about, too."

Polis said the time for politics is over, but he's already facing some negative political feedback for some of his transitional picks.

After announcing members of his transition team, several people balked at names on the list for his education transition team. Some folks weren't happy with the inclusion of Jen Walmer, director of Democrats for Education Reform, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican. DFER is a proponent of charter schools.

"We want to have a very different perspective on all of our transition teams," Polis said. "I guess there are some people out there that thought we shouldn't have a diversity of viewpoints. I am committed to ... have a broad perspective on some teams, that includes some Republicans."

Polis' campaign spokesperson Mara Sheldon pointed out members of the transition team are all volunteers and serve to make recommendations on operations.

Kelly Maher, executive director at the conservative nonprofit organization Compass Colorado, has been a vocal critic of Polis throughout his campaign, and she hopes Polis keeps his word about being a governor for everyone.

"I think that the onus is really on Jared Polis to try to bridge the divide on some of the stuff. And I hope he does," Maher said.

Some protesters on Friday visited Polis' congressional offices in Boulder to criticize his decision.

Hasira Ashemu, leader of the education advocacy group Our Voice Our Schools, said in a Facebook Live post on Friday from the demonstration they were there to make a statement about public education.

Students at University Prep, a Denver Public Schools charter school, worked on classwork last winter. (Photo by Marc Piscoty)

Ashemu said Polis' education transition team read like a "who's who of people inside the reformer camp." Ashemu said their demonstration was calling out DFER and Walmer.

"It was a list that would have made Besty DeVos blush," Ashemu said, referring the U.S. Secretary of Education. "It was that flushed with reformers and people who have been an enemy of public education."

Maher said Polis' decision to include "diverse voices" on his education transition team gives her hope.

"We're going to have some stuff that we disagree on, in fact probably a lot of them," Maher said. "I hope that we can all come together and pull together and focus on those places where there are solutions that can work for everyone."

Polis sees a way to lead a state that, despite a Democrat-controlled GA and governor's office, is still divided among blue and red. He said whether you're Republican or Democrat, you will see benefits from this decisions.

"You want to save money on healthcare, ... we think that everybody will benefit from free full-day kindergarten," Polis said. "The time for political argument is over. The voters have spoken."

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said members of Polis' transition team make policy recommendations.

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