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. yurlipsrmuvn

    People will take only so much from those who wish to engineer naive social change at the expense of personal freedom. The people HAVE spoken!

    September 11, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Bert Maniaci

    This is what happens when people DON'T VOTE

    September 11, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Donnie the Lion

    When you see almost-weekly stories of kids killing parents or parents killing kids with guns, common sense tells you, despite what is written in the Second Amendment, there are "law-abiding" citizens out there who should NOT own guns. They are not responsible enough.

    September 11, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Confused and Saddened

    Ever since this whole debate started I have tried so hard to remain open minded and to see all sides but this is so totally insane. I seriously do not understand how asking you to get a background check and limiting the amount of rounds you can fire is taking away your rights. Is it placing some limits on your rights? Yes. Could these limits be seen as a necessary part of being a citizen? Yes. Case in point, if you want to drive a car, you are asked to pass a test, get insurance and follow the rules of the road. I don't see people protesting and freaking out over these reasobable limits/expextations. Therefore, I can only see two reasons for this backlash in Colorado and around the nation. 1. IRRATIONAL FEAR (the Government is out to get me, everyone wants to kill me and my family) -OR – 2. SELFISHNESS (I can't be bothered to jump through a few hoops in order to potentially save a life).

    September 11, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Marie MD

    It's not funny but it shows how utterly stupid Americans are.
    They are more concerned about their gun rights than their own civil and personal rights. The same rights the rethugs have been taking away for months/years.
    This country won't need to go into war with any other nation. The fight will start right here on our own soil.

    September 11, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. FeloniousMonk

    Hey CNN! You forgot to mention one minor tidbit about Bloomberg. He contributed $350K to fight the recall. Sorry Mikey!

    September 11, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    Gun-ban laws needed.

    September 11, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. Sooner

    I saw a comment that basically said "These nut job gun lovers are going to kill us all one day". Well, if that is true, who do you think is gonna be the first to go? I bet it wont be the people with the guns!! LMAO keep crying, I suspect this is the begining of a sweeping victory for us "gun nuts"!

    September 11, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. calripson

    Isn't so annoying that the cattle, umm I mean people, get to decide issues like this ? First a public backlash against the Syrian war and now this ! Wouldn't it be better to leave it up to the Bloombergs of the world ? Or better yet, let's just allocate votes by net worth or dollars at play ? That way no problem attacking Syrian and no problem confiscating the riff raffs' firearms.

    September 11, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Jimh77

    Let this be a lesson for anyone else that wants to step on our 2nd amendment rights. Warning to all politicians regardless of what party you are.

    September 11, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. Grego

    To assume there are no Democrats that support the second amendment was a foolish move.

    September 11, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Mo

    My state too Brendan, and you barely got 50% in Springs, which you certainly know to be one of the most conservative places in the country. Don't act like you represent even a significant majority of the State. If gun owners were really worried about criminals obtaining guns, you'd favor a national registration system that traces guns by serial numbers. That way, when a gun is used in a crime, you can go straight to the "owner." Jail people who fail to report that they sold a gun or had it stolen, and the black market would disappear immediately. A wise man once said "they don't make guns in Harlem." All guns start as legal. Identify and attack the point at which they became illegal and you solve the criminals with guns argument. You'd be left with the problem of stolen guns, which is also readily solvable with trigger lock and safe requirements. If you are home, by all means keep your guns at the ready. Nobody is stealing them when you are home. The home alone guns, subject to theft, just need to be locked up.

    If gun owners actually cared anything about gun safety and responsible ownership, I'd be happy to support gun rights. Instead, your entire world is defined by what you fear, and scared people are dangerous to themselves and others.

    September 11, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. edi

    I don't know why people should be ashamed of themselves. People seem to believe majority rules, only when they agree with the outcome.
    Nothing has ever been put on paper prevented a crime. If sensible solutions for preventing or lowering gun crime was presented, I have no doubt everyone would listen.
    The facts outweigh feelings. Guns are used more for self defense than crime.
    My heart goes out to the victims and families affected by a senseless act of violence. However, my heart is pleased with those who have used firearms to protect themselves and their families.

    If we want to lower gun crime we need to be sensible!
    While I do feel mental health checks would be a good thing. I also feel those who have never been violent, shouldn't lose their rights because they might so something.

    Its a difficult situation, but limiting the rights of responsible gun owners because of the minority of irresponsible owns doesn't make sense.

    The right to bear arms is a civil right.

    September 11, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. crassus


    "Why does anyone need a 30 round clip?"

    why would somebody need something that doesn't exist?

    September 11, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC


    Do people really think that gun laws will stop criminals from getting their hands on weapons? No, criminals steel guns ,or even buy them illegally. Gun laws are for Honest working people who want to protect themselves.
    Yes, gun laws will serve stop some people who should not have guns from getting them. Your criminals do not need to steal guns from anyone. They can simply buy their guns illegally from law abidng gun owners. You know, the "honest working people".

    All of the guns in the hands of your ciminals originally left the store in the hands of a "law abiding gun owner." Like it, or not. That's how it works. You don't argue that your criminals buy guns from stores. Instead you argue that they buy them illegally from somewhere. Guess what? That gun had to start out somewhere and it started out leaving the store as a legal gun purchase by an honest working person, seeking to make a living trafficking guns. Did you know that there are no federal laws prohibiting gun trafficking? It's all enforced at the state level.

    September 11, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. tom

    It's good to see that Coloradans can think for themselves and don't feel the need to buy into a conservative or liberal agenda in its entirety. Legalize marijuana is liberal, protect the 2nd amendment is conservative. Again, thinking for themselves rather than blindly following some party's leader.

    September 11, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. trilleur


    Why does anyone need a 30 round clip?

    Just in case the deer shoots back?"

    Probably because their called magazines, not clips for starters.

    September 11, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. bluejayFL

    The NRA is the strongest lobby in this country. I don't think there is anything wrong with background checks. Well, is going to backfire one day and unfortunately something really terrible has to happen for things to change.

    September 11, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. About time

    It's sad that in these times even when politicians do the right thing for the nation, Americans are so stupid that something like this happens....Incredible....can't wait for the baby boomers to die off which will take the racist, bigoted tea-party morons with them and we can restore some sanity to our new tolerant, multi-cultural nation.

    September 11, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. Oh ya baby!!

    This is what democracy looks like!!

    This is what democracy looks like!!

    This is what democracy looks like!!

    Thank you Colorado for giving the rest of the country a glimmer of hope. Could this be the vote heard 'round the country? One can only hope.

    September 11, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. Lawless4U

    So the republican/tea party machine spent money recalling a guy who was unelgible to run for re-election next year? Seems totally logical to me.

    September 11, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Lawless4U

    Sorry, I menat IN-eligible.

    September 11, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Rogue351

    The real criminals here are the people who buy guns and allow them to fall into the hands of criminals. If the United States actually had responsible gun owners we would not have as many guns on the streets. People should be responsible for their purchase of a fire arm. Sure buy and sell whatever you want but be responsible for those purchases. Guns are not like most everything else in the United States, disposable. Owning a gun is a responsibilities. It is obvious by the extremely high number of gun on our streets, in the hands of criminals that those who purchase weapons are not storing them responsibly.

    September 11, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Jeebus Chreebus

    9 out of 10 Americans, including 3 out of 4 NRA members support universal background checks on gun purchases.

    Republicans are out of touch with America and out of touch with reality.

    September 11, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. truth hurts but reality bites

    To assume there are no Democrats that support the second amendment was a foolish move.

    This is how far left the extremist unDemocratic Party has gone. They no longer represent over 100 million gun owners in this country and couldn't care less about their Constitutional rights. These 100 million people span every demographic. The issue completely short circuits the Democrats usual divide and conquer strategy.

    September 11, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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