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. Wake up People!

    Democrats need to be just as cutthroat as the republicans.

    September 11, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  2. Kzooresident

    Perhaps someday they will end the partisan "protect my job" fights, put aside the "blame the gun" distractions and address the real problem of violence and moral degradation in this country

    September 11, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  3. The People Have Spoken

    Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out.

    September 11, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  4. dnokc

    The system works! Politicians can water down your rights...ONLY if you allow them to!

    September 11, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. Chris

    Wow Colorado is really getting things done these days. Legal pot and now they are actually able to change the political landscape of their state. As someone that lives in Texas...I've wanted the same for awhile.

    September 11, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  6. John Hastert

    We are free men. We will not allow our elected representatives to strip us of our God-given rights and freedoms. Today is a great day for America and for the Constitution.

    September 11, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  7. bhiner

    This is a perfect example of the disconnect that exists between elected officials and the will of the voters in their districts. Officials often get caught up in national debates, or in some issue momentum within their political party. All well and good, but the direction of the national debate or the party does not mean that electoral support for that issue exists back home. John Morse and Angela Giron may say they feel good about their stance on gun control. But they are now out of office and that is a clear message from their electorate that they did NOT do what they were elected to do. They were elected to represent the will of the people in their districts. In that respect, they failed in their office. Mutatis mutandis.

    September 11, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  8. Ranks

    In a liberal state?

    September 11, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  9. ThatGuy

    This is a victory for the entire country and should be repeated in NY and MD. We cannot afford to let these rights erode. This is not about self defense from criminals. It is about balance of power between citizen and government.

    September 11, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  10. Greg in Arkansas

    I guess that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" ...ALSO....means that the "right of the people to buy and sell arms shall not be infringed".....
    I sincerely hope that some "law-abiding" citizen doesn't "accidently" sell a gun to someone that isn't allowed to have one and that person shoots someone else because the "law-abiding" citizen didn't have to do a background check.

    September 11, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  11. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    The people have spoken. Much of the knee-jerk reaction to the Aurora shooting (and attempted bombing) would not have prevented Holmes from carrying out what he did. Limiting magazine sales to 15 round or less merely means he would have gone to Wyoming or New Mexico or to a private seller to buy large magazines.
    I do agree that background checks are important. Despite what many of my 2nd Amendment supporting friends say, some people should not be allowed to own a firearm based on their criminal or psychiatric history. Had the mental health professionals who were working with Holmes reported their findings to the state police, his name would have been placed on a "do not sell" list. However, as patient confidentiality issues are present, that disclosure could have let to a lawsuit.

    September 11, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  12. Thinkergal

    I live in Colorado and am saddened and frightened by the proliferation of guns. This gun-toting mentality is irresponsible and will leave us open to more Columbines and Auroras. I do not live in the district of either of these public servants, but salute them for their courage. I detest the NRA and the gun manufacturers of whom members are mere tools.

    September 11, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  13. James Morris

    Gov. Hickenlooper lookout you might be next on the recall along with King Obama

    September 11, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  14. cleat

    Good. Traitors against the Constitution.
    Obama should be next to be voted out.

    September 11, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  15. unknown11

    What does the picture have to do with the article?

    September 11, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    The gun control debate is going over the top. Conducting a recall election because of how a representative voted on one piece of legislation means people are allowing emotions rule the judgement. They voted for the person in the first place. You're supposed recall people when they do something prohibitively wrong, like break the law. Hmmph. Maybe some folks felt that they did break the law.

    September 11, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  17. Andy

    Guess we just have to wait for another mass shooting by a mental head case (who never would have passed a universal background check) with high-capacity magazines.

    But wait, let's force teachers to carry guns, whether they want to or not! It's like giving a 55-year old flight attendant at 5-foot 4-inches a set of handcuffs and telling her to go restrain the violent dude in the back of the plane...

    Thanks NRA! More guns for everyone! Like we don't already have enough firearms in society. The next mass shooting in Colorado is on YOU!

    September 11, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  18. Anonymous

    Democracy in action. Politicians that ignore the wishes of their constituents in favor of social engineering proposals that have proved counterproductive in the past lose their positions in government.

    September 11, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  19. Sparky91

    This is what makes me proud to be an american. These laws have been forced on the people, and the people spoke back. Congrats Colorado!

    September 11, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  20. Petunia

    Gee, the average democrat poster on CNN seems to think that all democrats are anti-gun.

    September 11, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  21. Frank

    To the White House
    To potential and current legislators and Governors
    To potential and current federal congress members
    To anyone who favors "man-made law" over "God's law"

    And those who interfere with Colorado politics, and I mean "out of staters" who have no business telling us how to run out state (i.e. Mayor Bloomberg New York City) to keep both your money and your ideology away from us; We don't want your beliefs here.

    Do not mess our God-given Constitutional Rights, or face the consequences!

    September 11, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  22. Brad

    Democracy at its best! These politicians lost touch with the majority of the people they are supposed to represent and got kicked out of office. A fine day indeed!!!!!!

    September 11, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  23. Petunia

    The brass knuckles add a nice touch to the photo.

    September 11, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    No one ever said the NRA isn't the most powerful lobbyist group in America. I'd like to think the two who were recalled voted their conscience. A politically novel ideal in America, I know, and idea that won't go any farther in this particular reign of media induced bickering. Gun control just isn't going to happen ... not in this current atmosphere of American politics. While the media has spent the past 5 years touting the Republican base of fanatics as an up and coming wing of the Republican party, it shut out the moderates in BOTH party's.

    It is the media that lost this and so many other really important issues all across America.

    September 11, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  25. Erick

    And what exactly does the picture have to do with the story? It shows a small revolver and some ammunition, a barbell, some brass knuckles, and what appears to be an electric pencil sharpener. Great job CNN.

    September 11, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
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