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. DaveinIL

    Interesting. Dispite all the union support in Wisconsin last year, that Republican recall failed. Dispite all the union and liberal opposition in Colorado, the Democrat recall succeeded.

    September 11, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Tom

    I guess those Colorado folks just can't get enough Columbime

    September 11, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. KiimH

    I have 15 round capacity mags that I use at the range. I have never gone on a shooting rampage. Nor do I plan to. Funny thing about law abiding gun owners.....

    September 11, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. noone


    Sigh. You talk about the NRA as a special interest controlling minds, but seem to have no problems with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other similar "special interest" groups on your side of the issue. And personally, I'm glad we DO NOT HAVE A DEMOCRACY in the USA (it's a representative republic). Democracy is mob rule, and the mob isn't very smart. Not that our elected representatives are much smarter, but at least there's some buffer there...

    September 11, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. GrumpyMel

    The people have spoken, I'm glad for the folks in Co in taking a step toward getting thier rights back. I just wish we could do the same in NY. For those on the other side I've the debate, I'd like to remind you this is how representative government is supposed to work. Just because you don't like the outcome, don't blame people for petitioning the government for redress of thier grievences and voting upon thier beliefs. Blame yourselves for not being more convincing in your arguements toward your neighbors. I have to live everyday when people in my state elect leaders and pass laws I don't agree with, so should you in yours when you can't convince enough of your peers to see things your way.

    September 11, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. Luke

    Impossible! 90% of Americans support universal background checks. This must be the dirty work of the NRA, who yet again, impedes the passage of common sense gun regulations against the will of the American people.


    September 11, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. KiimH

    Pete, none of the proposed restrictions on legal gun ownership would have made one iota of difference in the most recent mass shootings. But, hey, if that blanket makes you sleep at night, you hang on to that delusion

    September 11, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. Matt

    Hickenlooper is next. I'm ready to support whomever is his next opponent.

    September 11, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. tom

    When a politician speaks of "common sense gun laws" he's telling us two things. First, it's a warning that he's planning to deliver a lecture on how he believes gun rights should be curtailed. Second, he's telling us he believes that we simple folk lack common sense and that he has now arrived to deliver it to us. Either or both are reason enough he should never hold public office.

    September 11, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. KiimH

    mountainlady, you mean the part that hasn't been bought by Bloomberg?

    September 11, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Scot B

    It's a shame that Connecticut and the other states don't all have recall provisions in their state Constitutions also..

    September 11, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. noone

    @Mo Morgan

    Yeah, just what we should do. Feed the poor... so they can make more poor which we'll then have to feed too. Sounds like a losing proposition to me. I'll get behind feeding the poor only if we can add birth control to the food.

    September 11, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Sooner wrote

    @Mo ... ... ... And one more note, you claim our world is defined by what we fear? Quite the hypocrit, aren't you? These anti-gun people are the ones who are afraid, I think thats pretty clear. The only fear I have, as it relates to guns, is the fear that some idiot burgler might make the mistake of coming in my house, and I would have to replace my carpet after they take him away.
    Hypocrite? Ha! If Mo were even half as scared as you, then Mo would go out and buy several guns for protection.

    September 11, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. suffering in NY

    We in NY do not have the ability to recall our elected officials, we have to suffer with them until the term expires or they loose the next election.

    September 11, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Justin A.

    I'm sick of the "common sense" gun law garbage. The officials were recalled because their constituents voted to do so. Obviously they did not think highly of these useless "common sense" gun laws. I'm ecstatic to see Bloomburg waste his money on expanding his views outside of NY.

    September 11, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Gloria in NW

    America is well on it's way to becoming a third-world land of barbarians. How I wish we could get over our teenage determination to remain the Wild West forever, but it begins to seem it won't happen. I am 70 now. There was a time when I thought we were working on becoming more civilized, but now it appears we will just keep marching backwards.

    September 11, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Chris24

    The problem that I have with these proposed Colorado gun laws is it opens the flood gates for more guns laws down the road. Once it starts it's hard to turn off and never ends. See NY, NJ, Mass as examples.

    September 11, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Darkseider

    Our Republic at work and working properly! Imagine that? This is what happens when "We the People" do what needs to be done.

    September 11, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Jay in Maryland

    Good for Colorado. Good to know the people can actually do something to politicians in general, whatever the cause. As for the gun law, I don't own any automatic weapons or anything like that, I have no need for them. But it's the peoples right if they want them or not. Bad and sick people are the types that kill people not the guns themselves. If somebody is going to kill somebody, they will do it with a shotgun, knife, or a bat. And the day you come and tell me your taking my shotgun that I hunt with, is the probably the day I die.

    September 11, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. Durka Durka

    Good job Colorado. The people have spoken and the message is our rights supersede some feel-good legislation that won't stop shootings. Keep this message loud and clear across American letting those politicians, on both ends of the political spectrum, know that they cannot restrict or control our right to bear arms.

    September 11, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. noone


    Please stop with the conspiracy crap already. I'm totally against further restrictions on guns as I'm sure you are. But you just make our side look dumb with that garbage. It happened. It's sad. But that's the price of being free. Some people will abuse that freedom.

    September 11, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Tyler Durden

    The Bill of rights can not be abrogated by legislative knee-jerk reaction.

    September 11, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  23. Thanks Democrats!!

    I'd like to personally thank the unions and Democrats in Wisconsin for showing us we need not stand still while our elected representatives acted against the will of the people. Colorado knows how to git 'ur done though!! Hopefully the rest of the law abiding gun owners (100 million?) come out in full force in 2014 and 2016 to teach the left wing Democrats a lesson they will not soon forget.

    September 11, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  24. honestmidwest

    Sad – Appears to me the NRA is trying to "arm those that shouldn't be", with their money – makes one wonder what their motivation is for having guns in the hands of criminals, etc.. Why else would they not want background checks? Too bad some people aren't smart enough to figure that out.

    September 11, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. LEE

    Drunk drivers are killing people all across america. And sense most people cannont get drunk on more than two beers we are going to limit your purchase of beer to a two pack instead of a six pack or case of beer. The same logic applies to those who wish to limit capacity on magazines. And it is a false logic and will not fix anything. If you want to fix the problem with most of these recent shootings, THEN FIX THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM AND GET THESE PEOPLE THE HELP THEY NEED!!!!

    September 11, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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