Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb a year and a half before he was apprehended in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting that left five people dead, forcing neighbours in nearby homes to flee while the bomb squad and crisis negotiators persuaded him to turn himself in.
Despite this scare, there is no evidence that felony kidnapping and menacing charges were ever brought against Aldrich, nor is there any evidence that police or the man’s family attempted to use Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons and ammunition the man’s mother claims he had with him.
Aldrich’s threat from June 2021, according to proponents of gun control, is an example of a red flag regulation being disregarded with potentially fatal results. Although it’s unclear whether the law could have stopped Saturday night’s attack, they claim it could have at least slowed Aldrich and increased his profile with law police. Such gun seizures can be in place for as short as 14 days and be extended by a judge in six-month increments.
Colorado state representative Tom Sullivan, whose son died in the Aurora theatre massacre and who sponsored the state’s red flag bill passed in 2019, said, “We need heroes beforehand – parents, coworkers, friends who are seeing someone go down this path.” Sullivan’s son was slain in the incident. This ought to have notified them and placed him on their radar.
But in the state, especially in El Paso County, which is home to Colorado Springs, where the 22-year-old Aldrich allegedly went into Club Q with a long gun at just before midnight and opened fire before he was subdued by patrons, the law that permits guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others has rarely been used.
Despite extensive gun ownership and multiple high-profile mass shootings, Colorado has one of the lowest rates of red flag usage, according to an Associated Press investigation.
From the time the law went into effect in April 2019 until 2021, courts issued 151 orders for the surrender of firearms, or three orders for every 100,000 adults in the state. For the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have surrender statutes on the books, that represents a third of the ratio of orders issued.
El Paso County seems to be particularly unfriendly to the legislation. It adopted a 2019 resolution that claims the red flag rule “infringes upon the inherent rights of law-abiding individuals” by directing police to “forcibly enter premises and seize a citizen’s property with no evidence of a crime,” joining nearly 2,000 counties nationally in doing so.
County Sheriff Bill Elder has stated that unless there are “exigent circumstances” and “probable cause” of a crime, his office will wait for family members to seek the court for surrender orders and will not do so on its own.
With a population of 730,000, El Paso County experienced 13 temporary removals of firearms until the end of the previous year, four of which extended to longer periods of at least six months.
When asked if anyone requested that Aldrich’s weapons be taken away after his arrest last year, the county sheriff’s office declined to comment. No explosives were discovered, although the sheriff’s office’s news release at the time made no mention of whether any weapons had been recovered.
Lt. Deborah Mynatt, the spokeswoman, directed additional inquiries regarding the matter to the district attorney’s office.
There were no formal charges brought against Aldrich in the instance from last year, according to an internet review of court records. Additionally, The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs reported that records were sealed and that no charges were brought against anyone in connection with the bomb threat.
Additionally, The Gazette revealed on Sunday that Aldrich had called the publication in August to request that a piece about the event be taken down.
Aldrich left an editor a voicemail stating, “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story.” “The whole thing was thrown out.”
Howard Black, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, declined to comment on whether any legal action was taken. He stated that a review of the bomb threat will be part of the inquiry into the shooting.
There won’t be any more information made public at this time, according to Black. These are still open-ended research questions.
According to an AP study of the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have red flag laws in place, fewer than 10 times per 100,000 adults have used them since 2020, or about 15,000 times total. That was deemed by experts to be pitifully low and hardly sufficient to reduce gun violence.
Authorities in Highland Park, Illinois, have recently come under fire for failing to attempt to take the 21-year-old suspect’s guns away after a Fourth of July parade shooting that claimed seven lives. He made a threat to “kill everyone” in his home in 2019, which prompted police to become aware of him.
The Colorado Springs case might be yet another ignored red flag, according to Duke University sociologist Jeffrey Swanson, an authority on red flag laws.
If the mother knew he had guns, this seems like a no-brainer, he said. “You could have had a different ending to the story if you took the guns out of the equation.”