Colo. recalls show risk of supporting gun control
Bernie Herpin celebrates his victory in the election to recall Colorado State Senator John Morse Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Michael Ciaglo)
Calandra Vargas, center, and Elissa Bodenhorn, left, celebrate Bernie Herpin's victory in the election to recall Colorado State Senator John Morse Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 at the El Paso County Republican Headquarters. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Michael Ciaglo)
The honor guard marches after the firing of volleys during a memorial service for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Bowden was killed in action Aug. 31, 2013, near Gelan District, Gharzni Province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
A campaign volunteer talks on the phone as she and others pack up before vacating a union hall used as a canvassing headquarters for Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron, one day after a recall vote which Giron lost, in Pueblo, Colo., Wednesday Sept. 11, 2013. Two Colorado state lawmakers who backed gun-control measures in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut last year were ousted Tuesday in recall elections. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Campaign leaflets fill a box in the car of a campaign volunteer packing up before vacating a canvassing headquarters for Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron, one day after a recall vote which Giron lost, in Pueblo, Colo., Wednesday Sept. 11, 2013. Two Colorado state lawmakers who backed gun-control measures in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut last year were ousted Tuesday in recall elections. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron greets a crowd of supporters at a rally on the night in which the tally of a close recall vote were still being counted, in Pueblo, Colo., Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013. Campaigns worked to get as many voters as possible to the polls in Colorado's first legislative recalls on Tuesday, elections that tested popular support for gun limits in a state with a strong tradition embracing Second Amendment rights. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Colorado Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, heads to the stage to concede defeat in his legislative recall race in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, who voted for new firearms restrictions in the state, faced the first legislative recalls in state history. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Democratic voters in Colorado helped remove two state senators of their own party who voted for tighter gun control – an ouster that was both intensely local and a national test of what can happen to lawmakers who support gun restrictions in battleground states.
The well-organized activists who sought to recall the state’s Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron got the backing of gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association. It turned out they didn’t need much assistance because voters were already incensed by passage of the gun-control package.
Democrats, who maintain control of the state legislature, said the losses were purely symbolic. But they could be a sign of things to come in 2014, both in Colorado’s gubernatorial race and in other political contests across the country.
After last year’s mass shootings, Colorado was the only state beyond Democratic strongholds New York, California and Connecticut to pass gun-control legislation. Gun-control measures died in Congress, as well as Minnesota, Oregon, Washington state and Delaware.
Outspent by about 5-to-1, recall supporters cited a big anti-recall donation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make one of their main points – that Democrats controlling the legislature were more interested in listening to the White House and outside interests than their own constituents.
Political analyst Floyd Ciruli said Democrats seem to have been upset about what they saw as government overreach not just on guns but on other parts of the Democratic agenda. Polling showed individual gun laws, such as limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, had some support, but the size and speed of the gun package and other Democratic bills may have contributed to the senators’ fates, he said.
The effect of the recalls on other states isn’t clear. Only 10 other states allow state lawmakers to be recalled for any reason, but social media and email lists have made it easier to rally angry voters.