We at Walk the Talk America are extremely disappointed by, and in fact alarmed at, the adoption into law of SB23-170 in Colorado. This bill expands the list of professionals that can petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) to include school counselors and mental health professionals. This bill’s proponents will claim that its passage will stop homicides and suicides, but in reality it will create a chilling effect on millions of people who wish to seek help.

Gun owners, including law enforcement and military personnel – both active duty and veteran – as well as their family members, have historically been suspicious of mental healthcare due to a fear of rights restrictions. This hesitation leads to negative outcomes including deteriorating marriages, substance abuse, suicide, and homicide. We need to make mental health treatment more accessible, not less accessible, and this bill only serves to create a chilling effect with deleterious results.

Legitimate and justifiable concern exists within the firearms community that expanding the list of professionals authorized to petition for ERPOs will lead to increased hesitancy to seek help for even minor mental health concerns, such as parenting and stage-of-life matters. This legislation will become a barrier to care, not a lifesaving tool as advertised.

That said, now that the bill has been adopted, Walk the Talk America cannot emphasize enough the importance of firearms cultural competence for all healthcare practitioners and all school staff who live in states with expanded ERPO authority. We proudly offer three levels of training for free on our website, available at wtta.org/classes.