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. Gyrogearloose

    The media will focus on this as a gun control referendum. However, in the case of John Morse the issue was a lot more complicated. Morse is a liberal democrat who had promoted a number of bills that are intensely unpopular among conservatives, and Colorado Springs has a very significant conservative voter block. Morse simply didn't represent his constituency on a number of issues, of which gun control is only one.

    September 11, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. Sonkarlay

    They just don't get it, let see or hear about another gun shooting spray around again act like we are sad, when their guns kill their wives, kids, father, mother, brothers, sisters and so on then nra will replace those lost, this nation seal said I core in god we trust, but same god said though should not call my name vine, and he also said, help the poor, help those in needs and care for the sick, so my question is why ppl that believe all this wanna repeal obama care, food stamps

    September 11, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  3. Joe

    Feinstein and boxer next please.

    September 11, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. Harry Cline

    Throw out all the bums who will not defend peoples rights. Regardless if you own a gun or not. Cause we lose rights one at a time.
    Those looking to create some grand utopia should take a step back at look over the landscape of over 40 years of failed social experiments.

    That have made gun ownership even more necessary .

    September 11, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Steve-o

    The people HAVE spoken.

    September 11, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. Keys1

    If politicians would just do what they are elected to do and truly listen to their majority constituents, this would have been unnecessary.

    September 11, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  7. 52pan

    So when this recall was reported on fox a couple of days ago, there were plenty of lib gun control cowards who were flapping their gums about how this recall was going to fail. Where are you now? What's the matter, cat got your tongue? This is the start. For all of the lib politicians who want to wallow in your ignorance and blame and punish law abiding citizens for the actions of criminals, this is the start.

    September 11, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  8. Bigdoglv

    The people of CO have spoken. They are telling the rest if the country to mind their own business. Democracy in action. I love my country!

    September 11, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. RonFromNM

    The 2014 elections in Colorado will finish the job and these unconstitutional laws will then be repealed. We in the West don't want Bloomberg NYC style gun laws here.

    September 11, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. Richard Miller

    It is a sad day when the terrorist organization like the NRA pumps thousands of dollars into a state to effect an election.

    September 11, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  11. DJ

    What this story fails to mention is that Bloomberg spent 350K of his own money to oppose the recall effort. In fact, those opposed to recall far outspent those in favor. It's a good day in America when you can't buy elections

    September 11, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  12. Mark

    Go ahead and try to make it sound like you've won something, Bloomberg. Sit back, sip on a 20oz. cola, and watch as all of the money you dump into other campaigns only hurts your image and emboldens the competition. By the way, you're a racist, too.

    September 11, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  13. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Let the residents kill each other, it seems they don't need any protection so don't give them any in these two voting districts.

    September 11, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  14. Leroy

    The article failed to mention that Mayor Bloomberg donated $350,000 to the recall effort, and those supporting the recall were outspent 11:1. Obama's grassroots organisation also worked to defeat the recall in districtis that supported Obama by 21% and 19%, respectively, in 2012.

    September 11, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. BoThome

    I'm all for extensive trainings (classroom & shooting range), background checks, fingerprinting and photos of anyone wanting to own a firearm. I have gone through any/all of those without issue in multiple states over the past 20 years (MA being the most stringent).

    That said, those solutions will not even address the main issue, bad people with illegal weapons. Stop focusing on the "tool" in question, and focus on the core group of individuals responsible, the gangs. Law enforcement indicates that 75% of all gun violence is directly related to gangs. Actively arrest anyone directly tied to a gang (call a gang a terrorist cell if you like) and have a mandatory sentence of life in prison or even the death penalty for those in a gang. Watch how quickly gangs disband and gun violence become such a random event you'll wonder why there was ever a debate about guns.

    September 11, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. Tim

    If they would just do the background check almost everyone agrees to it would not be a problem. Adding on gun bans and limits to ammo and other nonsense is the reason these laws are not passing.

    September 11, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  17. Mike

    Good. Let that be a lesson to the other politicians.

    Don't mess with people's rights, or the people will fight back.

    September 11, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  18. mantan073

    Good Honest Uncorrupted Americans are waking up and realizing they had enough of these morons in office that have no common sense.

    September 11, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  19. zivo24

    As a Colorado native and resident, I've very disgusted today.

    Lies and propaganda have won over truth and facts.

    Two Colorado senators lost their seats in a recall election because of their support of common sense legislation to close loopholes in background checks for gun sales and limit sales on the types of weapons and ammunition that were used to massacre almost 100 people in an Aurora movie theater, leaving 12 of them dead and more than 70 others with injuries and permanent disabilities.

    We've listened for months as the recall supporters screamed that the legislation is "unconstitutional". Really? Then why did they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to target two of the dozens of legislators who voted for the bills instead of challenging the constitutionality of legislation in court?

    Why? Because they're not unconstitutional. No one's right to keep and bear arms was infringed. You can still buy and own a firearm. But the government maintains the right to regulate what types of weapons we can possess. It's called the National Firearms Act. It was first passed in 1934 and amended in 1968. It's the reason you can't legally own a sub-machine gun, a sawed off shot-gun, hand grenades, missiles or chemical weapons among other things.

    James Holmes had a documented history of seeking and receiving treatment for mental health issues yet he was able to buy multiple assault type weapons in local stores in a span of a few days as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and body armor online without setting off any alarms.

    It's disturbing to me that we have more preventative measures in place to track purchases of cold medicine with pseudoephedrine than we do weapons that can be used to commit a massacre.

    September 11, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  20. Who cares

    Dems want to control our every movement and make society dependent on them. They are a shameful bunch.

    September 11, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  21. Alex S

    We make fun of Iran, Saudi Arabia and N. Korea, yet we have in the US a Corporate-Lobbying high priesthood worse than any ayatollah or military junta, willing to watch children die to uphold their perverted ideologies and perverted conception of freedom.

    September 11, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  22. Blossom

    I'm a rural Democrat and I too would have voted against either Senator if I had been from their state! I've already written all my Representatives and Senators in my own state letting them know that I WILL be voting against any who vote for stronger gun control or bans just as I did after the 1994 ban!!

    Lets have more resources for the mentally ill to get help and less restrictions on law abiding citizens!!

    September 11, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  23. Aaron

    If these lawmakers had listened to their constituents in the first place they would not have been recalled.

    September 11, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  24. Shawn Seals

    I can't believe no one has wrote anything on this story! I think it is great they recalled these two and I hope the democrats wake up and see that there will be more of these recalls if they keep pushing anti second amendment laws! I don't think they realize that if you don't have the second amendment then the first amendment will go away too stupid! I think if you are a Democrat you should be ashamed of what you have done to this great country but you wont since you have no morals or ethics period!

    September 11, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  25. Natrldiver

    Well done Colorado! Hopefully this will be a lesson to lawmakers all over the country. You can be fired by the very people who elected you!

    September 11, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
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