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. richardl

    About time people started firing the wastes of space. Now if we could get the rest of the country onboard, we may be able to get a handle on these problems we're having.

    September 11, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  2. Don


    The "I don't care if our children are slaughtered" crowd has prevailed.>>

    Yes Chris you are right. Colorado just made it legal to kill children.

    September 11, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. NRA Man

    Ok, super liberals. We sent you the message: hands off our guns!

    September 11, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. JCD

    Here's the deal. State Senate President John Morse told the Democrat Senators before the anti Gun vote
    not to return phone calls or emails from the people of Colorado. I know this because I emailed and called the
    Senators myself and the only response I received back was from a Republican Senator trying to fight the bill.
    The arrogance of these (Progressives) control freaks that they are is amazing and I for one am glad to see these two fired
    By the people they didn’t represent.


    September 11, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  5. Just Disgusted

    Thank you Colorado!
    You may NOT have my weapons. You need a job now. GET IT! Now get out!

    September 11, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  6. roger

    Here is what is the most interesting and overlooked fact. Both candidates now declare that they are proud of their votes on gun control. During the campaign, neither one mentioned it. If they were proud of their positions, then they should OWN THEM! They did not. The reason the recall was initiated is their votes. The reason the recall was successful was their arrogance. They bragged about ignoring their constituents.

    September 11, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  7. Guest Speaker

    The liberal rationalization is all but numbing. The proponents of the recall were outspent by a ratio of 6:1; moreover, the article clearly demonstrates that said gun control legislation is unpopular. 18 states have recently ratified laws liberalizing gun ownership and use, and 8-9 others are contemplating the same. Gun control advocates would do well to recognize that the 'momentum' has, since day one, favored the supports of the 2nd Amendment.

    September 11, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  8. Mo

    Funny how the gun advocates love to scream "you're taking my rights" but never seen to want to have an actual discussion about what the 2nd Amendment say. I asked 4 times through this thread for any of them to explain what the words "well regulated" mean, and I got only two responses (to the 4th repitition) and neither one even comes close to answering the question. They were:

    It's open for debate...but many people interpret as 'will of the people'. National Guard wasn't a funded unit of the military until early 1900's....long written before then.
    This response may explain what a militia is, but not what well regulated means – unless Chris is saying that "well regulated" means that regulations can be enacted by the "will of the people."

    NedTaggart said –
    Fedrally, the Militia Act of 1903 defines as consisting of every able-bodied man of at least 17 and under 45 years of age who is not a member of the National Guard or Naval Militia.Former members of the armed forces are also considered part of the "unorganized militia"
    States may also have various definitions.
    That being said, By this text:
    "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
    It can be said that the well regulated militia is a result of this right, not the reason for this right.
    Again, that may explain what a militia is, but not really b/c federal statute cannot define the meaning of an Amendment.
    The last interpretation would mean that the first half of the sentence has no functional meaning. That goes against one of the most basic tenants of legal interpretation which is that all words in a law must be afforded functional meaning, otherwise judges would be free to ignore the parts of laws they don't like.

    With all this supposed respect for the founders, its amazing how people only want to talk about half the sentence. If the first clause is merely descriptive, it could be removed without effecting the right at all. Don't you think we should assume they actual meant something when they wrote the first half of the sentence. If they didn't think it had a purpose, they would have left it out.

    BTW – I recognize that the liberals in here call people names too, but the conservatives seem to delight in a smug nastiness and assumption that they are the only "real" Americans. I've read through all of it and there were a few "get out of our country" comments from liberals, but the conservative seem to pump it out on every page. Its ugly and really only goes to show why the liberals are so wary. Conservatives don't just want to win, they want to throw everyone else out. Seems to me the liberals just want the other side to stop acting "crazy," which is denigrating but lack violent undertones.

    September 11, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. curt

    "This is not the wrong business to be fearful about doing the right thing," It is if you vote for something that your voters don't want you to vote for....

    September 11, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  10. richard

    The anti-gun radicals are responsible for the gun problems we see today.
    reason the NRA and others won't go along with any new guns laws is that they know once the radical anti-gunners get things like background checks and waiting periods into law, they'll go after more and more ultimately trying to ban all private gun ownership. If they were to agree in writing not to ask for new laws beyond background checks, waiting periods and safe storage laws, even the NRA would go along with them.

    September 11, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  11. Dan

    If some drives drunk, you blame the driver, not the car or the car manufacturer. But if someone uses a gun, these liberals blame the gun. It is ridiculous

    Thanks goodness these people were shown the door and thank goodness people stood up for their rights

    September 11, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  12. Mark

    Having recall elections for politicians just because a group of people are upset that they have politicians ruling for limits on magazine clips and having to get a background check to purchase a gun is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.

    I can understand a politician being recalled for committing an unlawful event, but this doesn't come close to that threshold. These politicians should have been allowed to stay in office until there term was complete because they were voted in by the majority and have not committed any crimes! After their term is completed, the voters will have a chance to vote again for the candidate of their choice, if they feel they are not being represented as they had hoped.

    If this type of politics is to become the norm in American politics, I am thinking the US political system is one step closer to communism, a dictatorship or something else bad. Just because a politician votes different than what you want is no reason for a recall.

    Shame on all that voted to recall these fine politicians! You are nothing but a bunch of brain-washed individuals!

    September 11, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  13. huhb

    OK, so let's say I'm at a theater watching a movie, All of a sudden, some nutjob comes in with guns a-blazing. Obviously, I'm in danger – there's a nut with guns shooting at people, right?

    So, law abiding citizen that I am, I pull out my gun.

    The person next to me sees me do this. Given the maniac up front who's shooting people, the person next to me thinks I'm in on it. So, law abiding citizen that he is, he pulls out his gun.

    The person across the aisle sees him do it. Given the maniac up front who's shooting people, and now me with my gun out, that person assumes the person sitting next to me is in on it.

    So, being the law-abiding citizen she is, she pulls out her gun.

    The person sitting behind her sees it. And given the maniac up front shooting people, me with my gun out, the person next to me with his gun out, and the person across the aisle with his gun out, she figures we're all in on it.

    So, being a law abiding citizen, she pulls her gun out.

    The theater usher sees it. And given all the people with guns out, he's afraid for his life.

    So, being a law-abiding citizen, he pulls his gun out.

    3 minutes later, the police arrive to a theater full of people shot to death with no idea what happened, and no idea who the homicidal maniac was and who the law-abiding citizens were.

    You know, there was an account from a gun-owner present at the Gabby Giffords shooting who described pulling his gun, but unable to determine who exactly he should be shooting.

    "Law-abiding" doesn't meant "omniscient."

    And EVERYONE is law-abiding....until they break the law.

    September 11, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  14. jhawl3

    Bloomberg & his cronies lost despite outspending the NRA 10 to 1.

    September 11, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  15. Tracy

    What the idiots (those attacking Colorado)on this board forget – representatives are supposed to represent their constituents, not their own personal agenda to get more political favor from their party. If more people across this country would hold their "ELECTED" officials accountable and get rid of the self-serving ones, we would be much better off as a country, and the people would really have a voice! What does it say when there are at least 6 or 7 states that have initiated something to secede from their individual states? Their elected officials are NOT representing them... Good riddance to both elected officials. I am proud to see that some people are willing to hold people accountable.

    September 11, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  16. Billrich2

    I absolutely LOVE feel good stories like this!! Thank you cnn for posting it!!

    September 11, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  17. MIchael

    Hey California Legislators, Feinstein, Leno, Yee, paying attention yet?

    September 11, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  18. JJ

    Great news - the system works.

    September 11, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  19. Jack Wescott

    I do believe that Liberals are so open-minded that their brains fell out

    September 11, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  20. barney mason

    Pro-gun groups spent $360k in recall election. Anti gun groups and Bloomberg spent $3.6 million. Bloomberg is rumored to have offered $500k more if they would float a ban on sugary drinks.

    September 11, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  21. Mike, Albany

    Let's just divide the country into two independent nations: In one, sensible gun control laws will exist, while in the other, anyone who wants a gun will be able to get one - no questions asked (sex offenders, the blind, those with criminal records). We'll call the former of these, the United States of America; we'll call the other Jesus-gun land. People in Jesus-gun land can cling to their religion and their guns, put on their church airs, go pray every day, and come out with their guns blazin' away and shoot each other in the streets to their hearts' content. Immigration from Jesus-gun land into the USA will not be permitted. I think there's very little question as to how the two nations will evolve. In particular, I'm very curious to see how Jesus-gun land fares without the subsidies they currently enjoy from those states that, under my paradigm, would make up the USA.

    September 11, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. engjin

    Democrat, Republican or whatever beware! Politicians need to listen to their constituents instead of self appointed billionaire NY mayor kings. Well done Colorado!

    September 11, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  23. mr davidson

    You have to understand ,they want the land ,the territory ,the farms .They want to possess the regions which they cannot control the votes and the only places left are the rural farms and land where conservatives live and own.The plan of the Liberal socialist and the UN included is to begin to confiscate firearms and when we rebel ,which we will they will sieze property.It has already happened in many nations and South Africa to the European farmers who were beaten and killed and their property confiscated . The fast and furious plan by the executive and AG's office was the most recent attempt to promote confiscation of citizens weapons and the records of conduct have been sealed by the executive. People must continually beware ,the Liberal socialists own the cities and the voter populations of metro regions,the constitution of the US is all we have left.

    September 11, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  24. knklhead

    Wow, you can feel sorry for the gun owners on this one! " ... limit firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all firearm sales." That would be TERRIBLE. To have your background checked and then only get the chance to fire 15 times and HAVE to RELOAD? ARGH!

    September 11, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  25. Dell

    Shame on Colorado. And the comments on this site simply underscore the ignorance of anti-gun control voters who don't understand common sense gun control. Nobody is trying to take your guns away. You are on the wrong side of this argument.

    September 11, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
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