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. NedTaggart

    These so called patriots should be ashamed of themselves. No one is taking your guns away. Common sense should tell you that additional restrictions are needed. If you are such a law abiding gun owner, then you should not be concerned about going through a simple background check to buy a gun. I'm embarrassed today to be living in CO.


    If you have nothing to hide then why are you objecting to government intrusion? As a mental exercise, apply that reasoning to the First and Fourth Amendment as well and see how comfortable you feel with the results.

    September 11, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Leonard

    The people spoke about politicians infringing on law abiding citizens constitutional rights. You left wing
    liberals agenda of disarming law abiding citizens is never going to be realized, give it up and leave us alone.
    Oh, and the two that got booted, they are perfectly set up for a $$$$$$$$ political job in Chicago or New York.

    September 11, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. canastakid

    Reason number 144 to never want to even visit Colorado, much less live there.

    September 11, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. change will come

    Change always comes slower than it should, but it will come.

    September 11, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. yo!

    That's a warning shot across across the bow ... "don't tread on me"

    September 11, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Capt. Jellico wrote:

    So much for the "90% of Americans support more gun control" argument.
    That must have been the applause line on right wing radio today. I've heard it a lot today. Just because 1200 people in one state district and 120 people in another state district voted one way does not change the facts. 90% means that that there are millions of Americans in other parts of the country who support more common sense gun control. If you were to put it to a national vote guess which side would win. Oops, we just did that. Pres. Obama was re-elected.

    September 11, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Nice hyperbole

    Just sayin says:
    yup… to liberal left wing democrats, they see a law abiding gun owning citizen as just another mental patient waiting to explode and they only way to save them is to take their gun away.

    Except that the Colorado laws only limited clips to 15 rounds and required background checks. How exactly is that taking guns away from legal owners?

    September 11, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. James O'D

    Any time people have to keep pushing the phrase "common sense" in order to justify taking away your freedom, you know there's nothing commonsensical about what they're trying to do.

    September 11, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Proud NRA Member

    @Mike, I'm an NRA member, and I wish you luck in disarming me (and the millions of others like me, including those who aren't NRA members but share similar views). It's not going to happen, so you might as well get over it.

    September 11, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. PS

    The sooner we disarm the NRA????....What does that even mean?

    Two less moonbats!!!!....its a good day!!!

    September 11, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. glenview0818

    If politicians spend as much time dealing with real mental health issues in the US, something could be done. But they are always looking for ways to legislate means to take care of societies ills. If politicians want to make more laws, how about going after criminals to start with. Instead of controlling everyone's guns, make some real laws controlling fire arm possession of anyone that has had any mental issues.

    September 11, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. Roy

    That's the way to stick it to the liberals.

    September 11, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |

    This is a great example of PEOPLE POWER.The American people got sick of snobs treating law-biding citizens like potential criminals due to the wrong deeds of a handful of nut jobs.The brave people in Colorado stood up to Bloomberg and his dirty money,dirty lies,dirty tactics.This was a victory for the people of Colorado and the country.

    September 11, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. Joe Hates Government

    What a great job by these Patriots in Colorado. Taking down the terrorist left. They will fall like dominoes.

    September 11, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. karl from az

    GOOD! Teachers in Israel carry guns. There hasn’t been a school shooting since 1974: ‘nuff said’!

    September 11, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Josh

    This is the proper way that a representative government is supposed to function. If individuals in office fail to represent the people in their districts, they are replaced with someone who accurately represents the people. This needs to happen at the federal level more often.

    September 11, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. paul

    if you control guns whats next?
    criminals will always have guns illegally. Protect yourself/from big brother.

    September 11, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Mo

    CO Fan said – “The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question..." Article II, Section 13. End Of Discussion!

    Where in those words do you see a prohibition on registration? It says "keep and bear." If we let you keep and bear your arms, but require registration, how has the above been violated?

    Still waiting on anyone to tell me the meaning of "well regulated" in the first half of the sentence that is the second amendment.


    September 11, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    im not a republican, but this is awesome. I hate anti constitution legislation.

    September 11, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. KPB

    Poor gun control is what is going to be the real Achilles Heel that's going to eat away this country like a parasite from within, slowly but surely. It is the inevitable tend. Not bad foreign policy, not unrealistic trade policies. Living with Archaic Constitutional laws that have no bearing in today's realistic world is the bane of this developed nation. If countries like UK and Australia can do away with them, it truly shows that Lack of Political and Reform Will is whats lacking in the public and political class all across this once great country.

    September 11, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Steve Paul

    The Colorado vote gives me hope for real change come the 2014 mid-term elections.

    As someone once said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

    I hope so. Time to take back more of our liberties.

    September 11, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  22. Mo

    Karl, you will have a valid point as soon as every teacher spends two years in the military learning to use their gun.

    September 11, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  23. Martina

    Haha. Stay away from Colorado. What a bunch of loonies.

    September 11, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. Rosema41

    On the very day we commemorate one of the worst attacks on the U.S., we are also dealing with one of the worst atrocities of ignorance. Background checks have never killed anyone, waiting periods to be able to buy a gun has never killed anyone, and being certain that those we entrust with weapons will not endanger children or others will never kill anyone.
    As a former 17 year resident of Colorado, I am surprised that the same folks who approved Marijuana have voted to oust members of congress who disagree with the NRA and the insane rightists. NO, I am not a left-winger, but a common sense thinker. I also believe that the only way to accomplish peace on this earth is to treat my fellow humans in the way I want to be treated.
    I also want my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to not be afraid that some nut with a gun might blow them away for no good reason. Have we not learned anything at all from the tragedies from Columbine to Newtown??? When I hear talk of arming school administrators and teachers, I fear all the more for school children. Will those people submit to background checks? The likelihood that all school administrators and teachers are fit to carry weapons around our children is nil. If you have no reason to hide then why can't we have background checks on people who buy weapons at gun shows??

    September 11, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. JAGinAZ

    Well democracy spoke. I just do not understand why someone objects to these gun control laws. Is it really that important to be able to fire off 15+ rounds at a gun range without changing your clip ? Don't tell me people hunt that way. How many people do we have to bury before we agree that this is a right we do not need.

    September 11, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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