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. JH

    If only more lawmakers would get the boot for ignoring their constituents.

    September 11, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. Vic

    As an Independent I feel both the Right and Left sides are being excessive. I'm not completely up on the firearms laws of each state but I feel there are some simple ideas that would help the country rather than just score political points. The real problem we're having is sick people getting guns – Not clip sizes, gun types, etc. Democrats are using the past tragedies to push their agenda rather than fix the main problems. Instead of having guns mailed directly to a house why can't they mail it to a local gun store where the buyer is forced to meet an experience gun owner face-to-face with the option of refusal. The background checks are not that bad of an idea – I would be interested to know why so many are against it with a reason other than... "the government is going to take my guns". If the Reps could pass some simple preventative measures the Dems side wouldn't have a leg to stand on. You can most certainly make gun laws better without taking them all away.

    September 11, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  3. Just a Guy

    I Don't see anything intrinsically evil in drinking a beer, but there is something wrong with giving a beer to your 2-year old which is why we have laws against doing that. I do not see anything intrinsically evil in driving 65 mph, but there is something wrong in doing 65 in an active school zone which is why we have laws against it. I do not see anything intrinsically evil in owning guns, but I do like drinking beer and driving a car, there are clear situations where there has to be regulation. Its that simple, but the NRA blocks even the most common sense of gun laws referring to some mythical "slippery slope" or the "Sanctity" of the 2nd amendment. There is no slippery slope and the 2nd amendment is no more important than any other right that we have. Let the people have their guns, but let common sense in the form of reasonable gun laws have its day as well.

    September 11, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  4. factchecker

    Politicians have forgotton the wil of the people. I think the Governor should be next.

    September 11, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  5. steven

    Wonder which Colorado high school will be the next victim of an NRA approved mass shooting? Hopefully Americans will evolve into a peaceful nation but I would not bet on it.

    September 11, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  6. George

    The sad truth is that these politicians cannot be held liable in court for any future deaths caused by an individual who would not have been leagally able to obtain a gun if background checks were required or if a assualt weapon was used. They have no risk (except of course being shot by some nut), and they are backed by the wealthy NRA and the citizens who are bewitched by the lure of unrestricted (in their minds, unrestricted) gun ownership.
    You still can't legally own a grenade launcher, surfuce to air missile, etc.
    What is the harm in background checks?
    What limit to self protection is their in restricting high powered military assault weapons?

    September 11, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  7. factchecker

    Politicians have forgotton the will of the people. The Governor should be next.

    September 11, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  8. Rich Pedersen

    So after losing the battle despite out-spending the recall supporters by almost 10 to 1 in a leaning-Democrat state,, Mayor Bloomberg and his crew hope to "tamp down fears that the recall sent a message to lawmakers across the country." Good luck with that, Mayor.

    September 11, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  9. Bill

    So, Bloomberg and the anti gun groups out spent the pro gun groups 11 to 1 and these two clowns still lost. When is the petty tyrant going to realize that he and his now shrinking coalition "Illegal Mayors against Guns" (my paraphrase) are simply irrelevant? Representatives are supposed to vote to support their constituents, NOT their personal agenda. These two found out the hard way that voting counter to your constituent's beliefs can get you booted out! Need more of this

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  10. Dave

    Nice to see politicians actually pay for going against the will of their constiuents.

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  11. soking1223

    I just hope that the 56-51% voters realize, soon, that they just jumped into bed with the Devil.

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. Andrew

    This country is utterly hopeless

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. sabre546

    Guess we can not comment on this matter

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  14. Repub insanity

    What a sad day for Colorado.... Universal background checks and a 15 round ammo clip is reasonable... No one is trying to take your guns away!!!!

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  15. johnG

    Good job Co.Bye bye Morse and Giron

    September 11, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  16. HJC

    Congratulations Colorado!

    September 11, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  17. duane - st.pete FL

    owning guns is a abiding citizens are the ONLY ones affected by these laws as no criminal will follow any law the states pass.....surprise....they are criminals.....why is that so heard to wrap your arms around liberals? you give the upper hand to the criminals when you restrict law abiding citizens.......I refuse to let myself or my family become victims and will continue to carry my .45 wherever I go......remember, cops are great, but ever notice cops (for the most part) are responding to crimes that have already been committed......when seconds count, cops are minutes away, take personal responsibility for your safety......learn to properly carry and handle a weapon...

    September 11, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  18. tiffinS

    Queue the gun hating irrational lib vitriol....3-2-1.......GO!!

    September 11, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  19. WV Gleeman

    Just wait til those same "pro gun" senators become "pro life" crazies. I'm guessing the independents will have some buyers remorse in a few years.

    September 11, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  20. soking1223

    Just hope that the 51-56%voters soon realize that they just jumped into bed with the Devil.

    September 11, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  21. Ray

    Americans revel in their own stupidity.

    September 11, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  22. RAC

    We are just getting started. All the other fools will be voted out also!

    September 11, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. Anonymous

    The NRA, up to their eyeballs in politics, apparently still maintains a 501(3)C tax exempt status.
    But the Tea Party isn't complaining. None of this makes any sense.
    Whoever said GOP "Guns Over People" is right. Texas just made it a whole lot easier to carry concealed
    weapons. Shorter training times to qualify, and renewals allowed on line, without a refresher course.
    "When will they ever learn"?

    September 11, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Colorado Proud

    According to the poll, we, the people of Colorado, were against the new gun laws by a 54-40% margin and yet those who are supposed to represent us voted in favor of them. How can our elected officials claim to represent the will of the people if they vote contrary to it? THAT is why Morse and Giron were recalled. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    September 11, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  25. mrmwman

    Typical CNN. Nothing in the article about Bloomberg's $300,000 and the immense amount of money given to fight the recall effort (approx. $3,000,000) which failed. CNN has to lead one in the article that it was the NRA that got this done. People have spoken and good riddance.

    September 11, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
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