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. Rick

    And the lis outspent the conservatives 10:1 and still lost!!! BOOOYAH!!!

    September 11, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. Abbey

    Once again those anti-gun hating organizations are handed a stinging defeat. Now watch them run to the courts to get this reversed.

    September 11, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  3. Martin Hansen

    Bloomberg will try to buy votes, I hope he goes broke. This is a solid message that people are tired of not being represented by those they elect. Maybe this will serve to let our representatives know across the country that they had better be doing their job or they will face the same fate. Let us see how our congress votes on the Syria issue after this.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. daedliam

    "National groups on both sides of the gun rights debate jumped into the race, pouring money into a state level contest "... That statement is a bit of a distortion... The democrats defending their jobs received contributions that drawfed the second ammendment rights supporters... they out-spent them dramatically and they still lost. Good for teh people of Colorado.

    Smaller magazines and background checks for "legal" gun owners will do little stop criminals and crazies but these steps in the direction of restricting our constitutional and moral right to defend ourselves, if and when our government turns tyrannical, should be feared and treated like the disease they are.

    There has always been little to protect the "common" man. Prior to the Magna Carta, for thousands of years, power and tryanny ruled the day. It is the reality of our world.

    Our Contitiution is worth a great deal and should be protected even at great cost. We should not give ground at every tragedy or heatbreak.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. He's dead Jim

    This wasn't so much about gun control as it was about keeping federal level officials and organizations out of state business. Bloomberg and his buddies poured money into Colorado to get all of those laws passed in the first place even though the electorate in CO didn't want it, which is why the recall won. Same with the NRA, they poured money in too to get this whole recall thing going. They are a national organization, and in my opinion, should keep their grimey mits off of state affairs as well. The people voted, regardless of which side you were on, pro-2nd, or pro-control, this was a victory for the democratic process, and makes me proud to see it work.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. TheMiddleMan

    This story is so scewed and poorly done, but what should I expect from CNN at this point. If this had been fairly reported the truth would show that this is EXACTLY what democracy is about. These 2 local politicians decided to vote in support of political buddies from large urban areas and to vote against the wishes of their own constituency in a thinly veiled attempt to curry favor with the national Democratic party.
    Morse represents an area that is primarily military and retired military. That area was strongly opposed to the 15 round ammo limit. He knew that but he also knew that he wanted to get some points with the National Democratic party and he thought he could get this through then when his term is up he would run for Congress with support from the national party. Giron represented a rural farming/ranching/hunting/cowboy area where any talk of gun control is considered a sin. She also decided to defy the will of her constituency and support the National Democratic Party as her term is almost up and she was looking to ride Morse's coattails to Washington D.C.

    This story should be about 2 local politicians deciding that they could defy the will of the people they represent in a failed attempt to get national attention and a trip to D.C.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. Beleef Syance

    I'm ashamed to be Coloradan.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. Keri

    Oh the stupidity!!! Shame on my fellow Coloradans! All this over universal background checks. WHY would ANYONE with common sense be opposed to that!! I hope they won't try to overturn that law although I know they will try, and that this doesn't prevent other similar laws from being passed, although I know it will. I am so disappointed in my state and this country as a whole I could cry.

    September 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. sparky

    THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!!!! lots of pissed off people!!!

    September 11, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. Mattie

    So we no longer feel bad for mass shootings in Colorado? It's what they want, apparently.

    September 11, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. Jerry5555

    One minute liberals want guns banned because they kill people. The next minute liberals protest they want the right to kill their unborn baby... Their hypocrisy is without limit. Good for you Colorado!

    September 11, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. Dan

    This is democracy at its worse and why ,as a gun owner, I'll never join the NRA. I shows how big and powerful the NRA is and how dangerous its actions can be.

    September 11, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. Keri

    What a bunch of stupid scared sheep.

    September 11, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. M. Edward Triefler

    How sad, the NRA wins, rational reasoning is the looser!

    September 11, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Arrakis

    Colorado: the new Idaho.

    September 11, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. Ej

    The people rule, not the tyrants. As it should be.

    September 11, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  17. contrarian

    @ep tor :
    The 'gun owners' you should worry about are the ones in criminal hands.

    September 11, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. BillP

    The issue here – whether you want to believe it or not, is that the PEOPLE of the State did not like things that their elected officials did – and took action to do something about it. Gun issues aside, I think this is very encouraging news for anyone who believes that the people no longer have a voice. No matter the issue, go and do something about something you believe in.

    September 11, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. Ken in MD

    Colorado, Missouri, the red states just keep moving farther and farther backwards.

    September 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. TomGI

    So refreshing to see what the majority of idiots in Colorado really care about. Wayne is so proud of you.

    September 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  21. jason

    "dead children being carried out in Power Ranger shirts...."

    Another argument based solely on "feelings". These people NEED TO GET OUT!

    September 11, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  22. Tony

    Yes! The people have spoken! The majority do NOT want more thoughtless restrictions on firearms! So much for 90% of people wanting more gun restrictions! HAHA!

    September 11, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Sam

    Bloomberg on one hand says it's not a victory for the NRA because you only got rid of the lawmakers and not the law.
    I agree as just like Obama care too many laws are passed on a whim and we are stuck living with them.

    I wish Bloom would start siding with the people instead of his Orwellian dream world.....

    Sadly I think he might be beyond the understanding..... read Atlas Shrugged till you LOVE FREEDOM again...

    September 11, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. pauly

    wow bride pushes husband off cliff story came before RECALL story and MSNBC didnt even post it HA

    September 11, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. denim

    Bloomberg, you did everything you could, as did groups on your side, and YOU STILL FAILED. Get used to it.

    September 11, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
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