Two Colorado state lawmakers paid the ultimate political price for supporting tougher gun restrictions, in a sweeping victory for the National Rifle Association.
State Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron were rejected by voters Tuesday in an unprecedented recall prompted by their votes in favor of 15-round limits on high-capacity magazines and universal background checks for firearm sales. Both Democrats became the first lawmakers in the state to be recalled.
Residents of Colorado Springs voted to remove Morse from office. It was a close race–51% voted “yes” and 49% “no,” according to The Denver Post.
In a concession speech, Morse called his loss “purely symbolic” and defended his time in office.
“We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” he later told supporters who came to cheer him on, The New York Times reported. “If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.”
Republican city councilman Bernie Herpin will take over Morse’s seat.
Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo fared worse with approximately 56% voting to giving her the boot. She conceded the race, but told supporters that she had no regrets about her record.
“We will win in the end, because we are on the right side,” Giron said.
Retired local deputy police chief George Rivera will be her replacement.
Colorado, remains gun-friendly though it is the site of the deadly mass shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and at the Aurora movie theater in 2012. Riding the widespread momentum for new gun measures after December’s massacre in Newtown, Conn., the bills cleared the Democrat-led legislature. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bills into law.
In April, President Obama praised state lawmakers for their newly passed restrictions, calling them a model for the rest of the country. He said, “There doesn’t have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights.”
But the conflict within the state soon followed, as conservative gun rights groups launched recall campaigns. The gun rights enthusiasts wanted to kick out four lawmakers but could only get enough petition signatures for Morse and Giron.
Money pouring in from contributors around the country helped fuel the efforts.
The National Rifle Association and current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate of gun control laws and co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, led the charges on opposing sides. Both groups spent more than $300,000 in their respective campaigns.
Reported contributions in support of Morse and Giron totaled approximately $3 million, according to The Associated Press, outweighing the pro-recall campaigns by gun activist groups.
The NRA said their successful recall effort was “driven by concerned citizens, who made phone calls, knocked on doors, and worked diligently to turn voters,” read a statement Tuesday evening. The group said voters “sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns issued a defiant response after the recalls, slamming the NRA’s “cherry-picked” targeting of “vulnerable senators.”
“This election does not reflect the will of Coloradans, a majority of whom strongly support background checks and opposed these recalls. It was a reflection of a very small, carefully selected population of voters’ views on the legislature’s overall agenda this session,” said the pro-gun control group in an emailed statement to MSNBC. “For the last 20 years, the NRA has had the field to themselves in contests like these, but no more.”
The group vowed to back more elected officials who confront backlash from lobbyist over fighting for stronger measures.