September 11th, 2013
01:20 AM ET
10 years ago

Colorado recall: Pro-gun control Democrats ousted

(CNN) – Voters booted out two Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado on Tuesday in a heated recall effort that generated national headlines as a referendum on the renewed gun control debate.

Both lawmakers voted in favor of the state's unpopular new gun laws earlier this year, sparking a wave of protest that got their names on the ballot for the state's first-ever recall at the state level.

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State Senate President John Morse, who was a little more than a year shy of finishing his final term in office, conceded after he narrowly failed to win enough votes to keep his seat representing Colorado Springs. He was term-limited and would not have been able to run for re-election next year.

Read more: Colorado recall a proxy in national gun control debate

According to results from the secretary of state, 51% of voters in his district said "yes" to the recall, while 49% said "no." He'll be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin.

Morse's colleague, state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, was also on the ballot and conceded late Tuesday night. She lost in a 56%-44% yes-no vote, and will be replaced by Republican George Rivera.

Giron's loss came as a bigger surprise, as her district is more Democratic than Morse's.

The new laws in Colorado, which took effect in July, limit firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all firearm sales.

National groups on both sides of the gun rights debate jumped into the race, pouring money into a state level contest that normally would generate few headlines beyond Colorado's borders. But gun rights activists and gun control supporters nationwide saw the election as a chance to score an electoral victory for their respective movements.

Following the deadly movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado last July and the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in December, the Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic governor quickly ushered the laws into place by mid-March.

A former police chief, Morse spent the past six weeks going door to door, asking voters to help him keep his job.

"You have to take it personally to some extent," Morse told CNN in an interview before the election. "But I also understand this is way bigger than me. I need to do it for those way bigger reasons."

While campaigning, Morse argued he doesn't have any regrets in his fight for tighter gun laws. Asked why he advocated for new regulations in the face of fierce opposition, he pointed to the real catalyst of the renewed firearm debate.

"The vision of 6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown being carted out on stretchers, with their Power Rangers T-shirts now covered by a white sheet," he said. "We can't continue to bury our children."

Giron also said she was "proud" that she voted for the gun laws.

"This is not the wrong business to be fearful about doing the right thing," Giron told CNN before the election.

But in a state with rich gun culture and tradition, a majority of voters, however, disagree with the laws. According to a Quinnipiac University poll last month, voters in the state opposed the gun laws by a margin of 54%-40%. Democrats were supportive of the measures, 78%-16%, while Republicans more strongly opposed them, 89% to 7%.

More importantly for electoral purposes, a majority of independent voters opposed the laws, 56%-39%.

Tim Knight, founder of the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the group that initiated the recall against Morse, labeled the election as a "victory" for the state and those "who have been subject to the overreach of a Democrat agenda on guns, taxes, and accountability to the people."

"Since day one, they said it couldn't be done," Knight continued. "Tonight, this is a victory for the people of Colorado, and we share this victory with them."

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which helped mount the recall effort, also celebrated the results as a major milestone.

"(NRA-PVF) is proud to have stood with the men and women in Colorado who sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale," read a statement from the group.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argued the gun laws are still in place in Colorado, despite the lawmakers' ouster. The pro-gun control group vowed to continue supporting like-minded candidates, hoping to tamp down fears that the recall sent a message to lawmakers across the country.

"For the last 20 years, the NRA has had the field to themselves in contests like these, but no more. We're committed to backing elected officials across the country who are willing to face these attacks because they agree with Americans about the need for better background checks," Bloomberg said in the statement.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was "certainly disappointed" by the outcome but acknowledged voters in the two Senate districts "have spoken."

Filed under: Colorado • Gun control • Gun rights • NRA
soundoff (1,113 Responses)
  1. Chris two politicians who backed a measure to bring some common sense that most people can agree on were recalled. Big deal. The law is still in place, and doesn't restrict ownership of any gun beyond current restrictions. The law impacted the number of bullets that could be loaded into a single magazine and required background checks

    Oh goodness I guess both of those things are 'restricting the right to own a gun.' As far as personal examples that people give about background checks I am interested to know what state did you live in and purchase in because not all states have the same requirements.

    Finally, why is it that the NRA is so against magazine size...I mean really if someone can answer me reasonably why outside of shooting at a range you need more than 15 shots before you reload your weapon I would love to hear it.

    September 11, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  2. mcrops

    I'm not anti-2nd Amendment. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Caveat- guns don't solve problems either – witness the school admin who talked the would-be shooter down. Just a thought.

    September 11, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  3. Andrew23boyle

    I'm a little conflicted about this.

    I am very glad about the message this will send to those who would deprive me of my rights because OTHERS can't handle them. Politicians need to quit using the hysteria caused by atrocities, whether terrorism, "lone gun-men" or what-have-you, as an excuse to strip citizens of our liberty, whether through the "patriot acts" or onerous gun laws, and this recall should make it clear that at least some of us will not tolerate it.

    On the other hand, I'm a bit wary of having recall elections whenever a politician does something with which we disagree. I'm just afraid that once the cat's out of the bag, they'll end up becoming too common a thing with politicians constantly having to fight recalls and therefore become even less effective and efficient than they already are.

    Of course, considering the effect they often have, maybe rendering politicians ineffective would be a good thing.

    See ... I'm conflicted.

    September 11, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. American

    First of all let me greatly applaud these 2 courageous senators who went out of their way and out of the ignorant norm of our society. It's politicians like you two who truly represent what humanity is all about. Unfortunately humanity doesn't win in an ignorant and money-ruled society such as ours. The day will come someday down the road when the wrong votes of Americans as well as the extremist right wing nuts' power will have ever-damaging consequences to this country and as much as I love this land itself, I pray to God I as well as my loved ones are not on it when this day comes.

    September 11, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  5. Mike Smith

    I guess they haven't had enough mass shooting yet! Oh! well!

    September 11, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  6. Misty

    Good Job Colorado! About time the majority steps up and make their voices heard instead of letting other people dictate on how you should live!

    September 11, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  7. ryan

    they wanna tell us that we the people need gun control. well just judging by the daily onslaught of police brutality stories where cops use deadly force in simple situations, I think the police in America need gun control.

    September 11, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Sad day for American children but we cant expect too much commonsense from a nation of zoobs raised on TV crime shows.

    September 11, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. berticode

    It's not guns that are the problem but white males. If we can stereotype muslims for 9-11, why should we not profile white males for shooting massacres? That's right... Be very strict with gun control with white males.

    September 11, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. oldman357

    well then enjoy the job hunt

    September 11, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. sammy750

    Has anyone questioned the motives of Knight? He is really against the people of Colorado and working for the NRA and gun manufacturers. The people of Colorado need to understand Knight has bigger ambitions, he will be starting many recalls for not only guns.

    September 11, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  12. sammy750

    The NRA is running a campaign using the 2nd amendment to support the gun manufacturers. Just go back and read there history to the 1970, before the radicals took over the NRA. This is the Terrorist group in the USA now.

    September 11, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  13. dandude

    Someone asked what do you need a 30 round clip for? That's the wrong question.The right question would be why would you want to take the 30 round clip away? So some whack job every couple years will have to go through the laboring effort of reloading while he is massacring a group of people.I'm sure that will tottaly slow him down."Well I was gonna kill that group hiding behind the seats ,buuut I'm out of rounds in this clip,and getting another one out of my pocket is so hard!Oh well,I guess I'll surrender."

    September 11, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
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