Colorado legislators facing recall over onerous gun control measures

A couple members of the Colorado legislature are facing a recall over gun control measures — including universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines — passed earlier this year.

Gun rights supporters and groups have organized a recall campaign against Colorado Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and State Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) for their support of the gun control measures in what the Washington Post calls a “referendum on guns”:

In the wake of mass shootings in suburban Denver and Newtown, Conn., last year, Colorado became one of the few states to pass new gun control legislation. Now, the architects of that legislation face recall elections that have become proxy wars for conservatives angry about the new gun rules, among other liberal initiatives the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed earlier this year.

On Sept. 10, voters will head to the polls to decide the fates of state Senate President John Morse, of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, the first two legislators to be subject to a recall in Colorado’s 137-year history. After the legislative session, conservative activists gathered more than 10,000 signatures on recall petitions targeting Morse, and nearly 13,500 signatures targeting Giron, well over the threshold required by state law to force both senators onto the ballot.

The outcome of the recalls will determine control of the Colorado State Senate; Democrats currently hold a narrow 19-seat to 16-seat majority. That fact has drawn the attention of outside groups on both sides of the aisle. Altogether, the two sides have spent nearly $2 million on the two races since Aug. 1, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office — most of it coming from high-profile outside groups with a stake in the gun debate.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is heavily involved in these recall campaigns, dropping over $100,000 on mailers and advertisements, according to the Post. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who frequently espouses anti-Second Amendment rhetoric, is putting in $350,000 of his own money to help the two anti-gun legislators hold on to their seats.

The debate over the gun control measures in Colorado became heated at times. During a speech from the floor of the Colorado House, State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Denver) proclaimed that women don’t need guns to protect themselves, saying that they should instead use a call box or a whistle if they’re attacked.

“It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles,” said Salazar. “Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop…pop a round at somebody.”

The gun control measures passed by the Colorado legislature are, at best, another example of security theater. For example, universal background checks actually do very little prevent instances of gun violence because they don’t deter straw purchases or deal with stolen guns. They do make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain a firearm and impose another regulatory and financial burden on gun stores that decide help facilitate the private sales of guns.

The recall elections will be tough for gun rights supporters to win, but there are encouraging signs that they may be able to defeat at least one of the anti-gun legislators.

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