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. disqus_m4RzRjSnrs

    With these folks gone, then the issue can be presented again and the law overturned. I wish old Bloomberg would overturn himself too.

    September 11, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. Aimleft

    Sickening. That is all.

    September 11, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. God & Country

    An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.

    September 11, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Ain't nobody gonna take way my guuuuuuns!!

    American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.

    September 11, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  5. Lee

    I don't own a gun, but I support the people's right to keep and bear arms.

    I'm an independent who voted for Obama twice. The lesson here is "Don't screw with the Bill of Rights.

    September 11, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. Don't Mess With The Jesus

    In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.

    September 11, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. NedTaggart

    @Buddha Mama I agree with you 100%. MG wrote that first sentence. I just did a poor job of differentiating the quote. That's why I added the sentence after that.

    MG wrote
    "If you have nothing to hide then why are you objecting to government intrusion?"

    I responded
    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 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Nino

    Jesus and a gun......that's the GOP credo!

    September 11, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. More Guns!!

    The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

    September 11, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. NedTaggart

    @Ain't nobody gonna take way my guuuuuuns!!
    American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.

    Based on what study, and how does this compare with other forms of violent crime?

    September 11, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. Bill

    I keep telling people that the majority are against new gun legislation. They deny it... and then this happens. Guess the "minority" took out the trash.

    September 11, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. NRA

    At least 40% of all gun sales in the U.S. happen without the purchaser showing so much as a library card.

    Why are Republicans fighting so hard to defend the right of criminals and lunatics to buy guns?

    September 11, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. AzMick

    I see this as the first step in Western States backlash against the California invasion. There is a HUGE resentment against those folks who think they could leave the misery of living in California but they bring their baggage with them; injecting themsellves into the politics of the other Western States. Coloorado is the first to be ruined. The other states are fighting back. California invaders are NOT welcome!

    September 11, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Mo

    Still waiting on one of you to tell me what the words "well regulated" in the 2nd Amendment are supposed to mean.

    I've asked 4x now and all I see is screaming about defending "our rights." Great, let's look at the right in question. The text directly and unambiguously references regulation. So what do those words mean people?

    September 11, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Money

    Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.

    September 11, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Mark

    This is what happens (and hopefully will continue to happen) when lawmakers ignore the people that put them into office. Good riddance.

    September 11, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. Reason

    Since the Brady Law was initially passed, about 2 million people have been blocked from purchasing a gun, due to a background check. About half of those were felons.

    Smart regulation works.

    September 11, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. denim

    Bloomberg, I laugh in your face.

    September 11, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. Jack

    Good job Colorado citizens for protecting your 2nd amendment rights.. Here's what no liberal will ever tell you. While the banning of the large capacity magazines might not technically prevent a law abiding citizen from exercising his 2nd amendment rights, the liberals always seek to incrementally take away the rights and freedoms of citizens of America.

    The most important thing to remember is Democrats like Bloomberg will always take advantage of tragic events to push their anti-freedom policies on Americans. Don't even let them start down the road of incremental-ism.

    September 11, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  20. Bob

    Colorado should pass a law requiring that everyone own a gun and carry it at all times; men, women and children alike. Those who don't want to should be provided with financial aid to relocate to one of the more civilized parts of the world. Then the natives would be free to shoot each other all they wanted and no one would be around to complain about it.

    September 11, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  21. Republiker

    Two more democrats gone! This is great news for everybody. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. That's the real issue.

    September 11, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  22. Sanity

    Unfortunately, our current background check system only applies to about 60% of gun sales, leaving 40% (online sales, purchases at gun shows, etc.) without a background check.

    The Colorado law addresses this problem by creating universal background checks that make it harder for criminals and mentally ill people to buy guns.

    9 out of 10 Americans and even 3 out of 4 NRA members are for universal background checks.

    Guess who Republicans work for?

    Hint: It's not the American people.

    September 11, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. Jim1973

    Sooo, proud of Colorado, good us of your rights and good call to fight stupid laws that are nothing but kneejerk reactions. now, if you can get the laws overturned you will have righted the wrong which has fallen on your state.

    September 11, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  24. disqus_m4RzRjSnrs

    Goodbye and good riddance to namby pamby trash. The majority spoken.

    September 11, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Bill

    Saying that online sales requires no background check is a lie. You don't require one to buy the gun, but the gun MUST be shipped to an FFL where you MUST have a background check before you can receive the weapon. Do your research before you start lying.

    September 11, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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