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“Red flag” gun law signed by Polis, goes into effect Jan. 1

DENVER (AP) — Colorado became the 15th U.S. state on Friday to adopt a “red flag” gun law allowing firearms to be taken from people who pose a danger, securing a deeply emotional victory for an Aurora shooting survivor.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill, a top priority of his first term. It marked a painfully personal victory for first-term Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was gunned down in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre that killed 12 people and wounded 70 others.

“Three hundred and fifty one Fridays since Alex was murdered,” Sullivan began, wearing his son’s leather bomber jacket at the signing ceremony for the bill he sponsored.

“Being the parent of a murdered child, everything is stunted,” Sullivan said, prompting knowing, tearful nods from several other shooting survivors standing behind him. “I am elated, believe me. It just can’t come out because there is just too much work in front of us to get done.”

Alex Sullivan was celebrating his 27th birthday at the theater. Tom Sullivan, elected to the House in November, has devoted his life since Aurora to counseling survivors of other mass shootings around the country and campaigning for gun control.

Florida passed its own “extreme risk protection order” law after the 2018 Parkland school massacre. Others with versions of the law include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.

Colorado’s law allows family, household members or law enforcement to petition a court to have guns seized or surrendered. A subsequent court hearing could extend a gun seizure up to 364 days.

The law places the burden of proof on the gun owner to get the firearms back by showing that he or she no longer poses a risk. That condition — and the bill itself — drew the ire of gun rights activists. Minority Republicans in the Legislature unsuccessfully tried to shift the burden of proof to the petitioner.

“Colorado has endured more than our fair share of tragedies,” Polis said.

“This law will not prevent every shooting, but it can be used in a targeted way to make sure that those who are suffering from a mental health crisis” get care, he said.

The law is named after Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish III, a 29-year old husband and father who was killed on New Year’s Eve 2017 by a man who had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior.

Parrish’s boss, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle attended. Pelle’s son, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, was wounded in the shooting that killed Parrish.

Pelle said he was working with Spurlock and other law enforcement chiefs to develop protocols for executing protective orders safely.

Co-sponsor Alec Garnett, the House majority leader, noted that Colorado’s law stands out for providing legal representation for gun owners.

“We have come a long way in this state from Columbine,” Garnett said, referring to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre.

Gun rights activists say about half of Colorado’s 64 counties — most in rural areas — passed resolutions opposing the bill, symbolically declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”

Opposition from rural sheriffs elicited a warning from Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser, who has said those who won’t enforce the law should resign.

It’s Colorado’s most significant gun legislation since background checks and ammunition magazine limits were enacted in 2013, following the Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Two Democratic lawmakers were recalled and another resigned for supporting those laws.

New winter storm warning issued for Colorado’s high country

Another winter storm warning has been issued for the Colorado mountains starting Friday morning and lasting into Saturday.  During that time, another 8 to 16 inches of snow is expect to fall above 8,000 feet.

“Snow will continue decreasing in coverage and intensity this evening with additional accumulations of 2 to 4 inches possible through sunset,” according to the Thursday update. “Snow, heavy at times, will then redevelop by late Friday morning. The heaviest snow is expected above 8,000 feet though will fall at lower elevations.”

The avalanche danger was set at “extreme” (level 5 of 5) by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center across most of the central Colorado mountains.

Backcountry travel is highly discouraged.

Letter: County commissioners don’t represent us

We must ask ourselves, why are our county commissioners advocating returning drilling rights to out of state interests at the cost of our health? Who are they representing? Surely not us. The people of this valley have overwhelmingly made clear their desire to protect the Thompson Valley Divide, our watershed. In my opinion, when outsiders come into a village and poison the well, they should be dealt with accordingly. We are running out of water in this state. That is not debatable. These county commissioners want to allow what water that remains to be contaminated by fracking fluids, they want to allow roads to be built into areas that for the most part remain wild. They do not care about you or me, they only care about being the big shot with lots of money and friends. They have got to go. You have betrayed your people. Resign.

Douglas Andrew Salg,

Glenwood Springs

Vail Valley hotels take five of top 10 spots on list of best Colorado hotels, Aspen takes 3

EAGLE COUNTY — The Vail Valley is already a well-established brand. But a recent list of the top hotels in the state may put a little more shine on that marketing halo.

A recent survey by U.S. News & World Report rated the state’s top hotels, and five Vail Valley hotels landed spots in the top 10.

The Sebastian in Vail was the top-rated local hotel, landing in the third spot on the list. The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail came in at No. 4, with the Sonnenalp at No. 6, The Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch at No. 8  and the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa at No. 9.

The top rated hotel on the list was The Little Nell in Aspen, followed by The Broadmoor at No. 2.

Ivie Parker, of the sales and marketing team for The Sebastian, said people at the hotel are thrilled.

“It’s always an honor” to land on a best-of list, Parker said. “It puts us among some really great company.”

Landing on lists like this one can be a validation that people at a hotel are treating guests well and providing a great experience.

“It helps give it a little more credibility than if we say it ourselves,” Parker said.

Boosting brand awareness

That recognition can be important for an independent hotel, Parker said. Landing on a top 10 list can boost brand awareness for lodges that don’t have the cachet that international brands carry.

At the nearby Sonnenalp hotel, sales and marketing director Esmarie Faessler said holding a prominent place on a well-known best-of list can help beyond marketing to individuals.

The hotel will put its spot on the U.S. News & World Report list on its website and social media channels. But the sales team will also use the ranking when pitching the Sonnenalp to groups.

And, while the Vail brand is already strong, Faessler said having so many hotels on a best-of list could pique the interest of someone considering where to spend a winter or summer vacation.

“For someone who typically visits Aspen (the list) shows them there are places in Vail that are great,” Faessler said.

Good for everybody

In addition to its role as the regional chamber of commerce, the Vail Valley Partnership also works on group sales and other reservations to the valley. Partnership CEO Chris Romer agreed that being on a top 10-hotels list can be a boon for an independent lodge.

“The people who are loyal to brands are going to be loyal to those brands,” Romer said. “If you have points (with a major hotel brand), you’re going to stay there.” But Romer added, people who aren’t brand-loyal may use best-of lists to aid their decisions.

At the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, sales and marketing director Vince Vito said that even a hotel with a recognized brand can benefit from appearing on a best-of list.

“Recognition from independent sources … any kind of unsolicited feedback, adds credibility,” Vito said.

And, he added, that appearing on a top-hotels list might also help push the Vail Valley as a summer brand.

Having one area dominate a top 10 list can be good for the rest of that destination, too.

“It’s a big deal for the community,” Romer said. “It raises the tide for everybody.”

Romer noted there’s a kind of peer pressure element to best-of lists, with other properties looking to try to keep up.

“People will say: ‘We need to increase our levels,'” Romer said.

At the Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, marketing manager Stefanie Shirley said being on a top hotels list can reinforce buying decisions.

“It shows our guest they’re picking a great place,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

Denver strike ends; teachers to get big raises

DENVER (AP) — Denver Public Schools and teachers have reached a deal to end their three day strike that includes raising pay by up to 11 percent, with built-in cost-of-living increases and more opportunities for future salary hikes.

They announced the deal Thursday morning after marathon negotiations and encouraged teachers to return to their classrooms.

The deal still must be ratified by the full union membership. More than half the district’s teachers went on strike Monday after negotiations over pay broke down.

A key sticking point was the teachers’ demand that the system rely less on bonuses for educators in high-poverty and high-priority schools. The union says that question will now be studied.

The district sees bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.

The strike was the latest action in a wave of teacher activism since last spring, when teachers walked off the job in West Virginia.