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Denver DA hires investigator, closes loophole allowing domestic violence abusers to keep their guns

Contact7 Investigates found the 2013 law isn't working
Posted: 5:16 PM, Jan 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-20 20:54:01-05
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DENVER -- Denver's newest investigator starts his day listening to 911 calls, digging through police reports and social media posts to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers.

"I am convinced that what we're doing in this office is saving lives," said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann.

McCann recently hired the investigator whose sole job is to look for evidence of convicted domestic violence who still have their weapons, a violation of state law Contact7 Investigates found is largely unenforced across the state.

"The law says there shouldn't be any guns, so I was very frustrated that the judges weren’t enforcing it," said McCann.

The law states domestic abusers with protection orders must turn over their firearms within 72 hours and notify the court. Fail to do so, and "the court shall issue a warrant for the respondent's arrest."

What the law doesn't say is who is responsible for making sure that happens.

Lone Tree murder-suicide is one example of how the law is failing

Anthony Tesoriero, who shot his 10-year-old son, Ty, and then killed himself, is one of those abusers who never should have had a gun, but clearly did.

The murder-suicide happened in Lone Tree back in September and came hours after Ty's father learned he was going to lose custody of his son.

"He was not supposed to have a weapon," Ty's mother, Jing Tesoriero, said back in September. "I don't want this to ever happen again."

The problem is that no one is keeping track of who turns over their weapons and no one is enforcing the law because of how it is written.

Denver believes hiring an investigator is key to enforcing the law

"That's the kind of case that I believe we in this office are going to be able to prevent," said McCann.

McCann said she's found hiring an investigator is a way to enforce the law, despite judges not enforcing it and the challenges with how the law is written.

"We're able to do it without any violent incidents and, often, to the relief of everyone," she explained.

Denver is now the only district attorney's office in the state with a dedicated domestic violence gun investigator.

McCann hired the investigator in October and, in the four months on the job, said he has already confiscated more than 50 guns from 11 abusers.

"I was stunned when he sent me a picture of 19 guns that they took out of one house," she said.

McCann said Denver's success shows the law can be enforced, if local jurisdictions can find the money to hire one.

"We can do this, and we should be doing it," she said.

Colorado lawmaker plans to introduce legislation to fix loophole in the law

Meanwhile, a Colorado lawmaker and domestic violence survivor plans to introduce legislation this session to close the loophole in law and provide a clear road map for who is responsible for ensuring domestic violence abusers turn over their guns.

"The bill was great, but the process wasn't identified, so let's do that now," said Rep. Monica Duran, a Democrat who represents Jefferson County.

She said her bill titled, "Concerning Procedures for Domestic Abusers Upon Issuance of a Protection Order," will lay out a clear process for law enforcement and the courts, and who is responsible for ensuring Colorado abusers turn over their weapons.

"What this bill will do is lay out the steps needed to make sure that there aren't any loopholes," Duran said. "And there's no doubt that the process has been done and there's back checking."

The Jefferson County lawmaker said they are still working on the final details, including which entity will take on the responsibility, but plans to have it ironed out in the next few weeks. Duran plans to introduce the bill early in the legislative session.