Social-media threats over ‘red flag’ gun bill prompts lawmaker to notify law enforcement

Author: Joey Bunch - May 4, 2018 - Updated: May 7, 2018

WistAssistant House Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, speaks at the Colorado Capitol. (Courtesy photo)

State Rep. Cole Wist was in the Colorado House Judiciary Committee Thursday night when he left unexpectedly and was soon replaced on the panel by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock.

Wist, a Republican from Centennial, has weathered a barrage of negative posts and tweets all week for his sponsorship of a “red flag” bill to at least temporarily seize guns from those deemed by law enforcement to be a threat to others.

These posts went farther beyond policy and politics, and Wist is a husband, father and lawyer who advises companies to take workplace violence very seriously.

“The threats were and hostile and intimidating,” he told Colorado Politics. “I considered them serious enough to turn them over to law enforcement.”

State troopers at the Capitol told him to go home and be with his family.

Details about the investigation were not available Friday, and Wist declined to provide the posts or name the person threatening him. He said he wanted to let law enforcement do its job.

House Bill 1436 was heard Friday night in the House, and will go to the state Senate, where most expect Republicans to kill it in committee, if for no other reason than to avoid putting other GOP members at odds with the party’s pro-Second Amendment base.

When the bill was debated on the House floor Wednesday night, Wist told the chamber he lives less than two miles from where Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish was ambushed and killed on Dec. 31 by a man known to be mentally unstable and had made threats against law enforcement before.

He was joined in supporting the red-flag bill by House Assistant Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, the son of former Boulder County DA Stan Garnett.

Other Republicans also support the bill, including Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock and local District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted James Holmes, the 2012 Aurora theater shooter. Brauchler is the lone Republican running for state attorney general.

The bill was introduced at a press conference Monday and Tuesday night, House Republicans met and entertained a motion to remove Wist as assistant minority leader, effectively the second-in-command in the caucus. The members never voted, but several House Republicans have said Wist has enough, if not a large majority of support, to have survived the vote.

Wist has apologized for not talking to members of the caucus first, before sponsoring the bill, but has been resolute in his support for allowing law enforcement or the courts to intervene when somebody who is armed demonstrates they are a potential threat.

Opponents of the red flag bill contend the issue is not about violence but about the government’s discretion to disarm someone over a crime that has not happened.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.