Gun-control supporters have been talking confidently about renewing a push for gun violence prevention measures in Washington this fall. But the results of two recall elections in Colorado Tuesday could hobble their plans.
Here’s why: Two Democratic state senators, John Morse and Angela Giron, were rejected by voters in an unprecedented recall campaign. They’d earned the ire of gun-rights advocates by supporting a bill that imposes 15-round limits on high-capacity magazine and requires universal background checks for gun sales.
Morse, the president of the state Senate, lost his recall election by 51-49. Giron’s contest wasn’t close, with 56% of voters rejecting her.
Colorado lawmakers passed the gun-control measure in April, in response to the Newtown, Conn., shooting last December. That prompted praise from President Obama, whose spokesman called the law a model for the rest of the country. The state was the site of the Columbine massacre in 1999, as well as the Aurora movie theater shooting last year.
Conservatives in Colorado quickly launched recall campaigns against four lawmakers who had backed the measure, and got enough signatures to put the recalls of Morse and Giron on the ballot. The contests quickly became a forum for national gun-control and gun-rights groups to do battle: The National Rifle Association and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Michael Bloomberg’s group, each poured in more than $300,000 on each side.
The NRA said in a statement Tuesday that voters “sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale.” And that message may be heard as far away as Washington.
In April, Congress failed to pass measures aimed at expanding background checks, banning assault weapons, and banning high-capacity gun magazines. With polls showing strong public support for the measures, there was speculation that those who voted ‘no’ could face repercussions at the polls.
Supporters of gun control have signaled that they plan a revived legislative push. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last month that his chamber is “almost certain” to take up legislation in 2014.
But Tuesday’s recall results from Colorado could help shift the momentum back in the other direction. They make clear that though modest gun-control steps remain broadly popular, the NRA can still capitalize on the intensity of gun-rights supporters to oust for lawmakers who don’t toe the line. That’s a lesson that members of Congress in swing districts around the country aren’t likely to miss.
The results could up the pressure on Obama to resist using his executive power to take steps aimed at quelling gun violence, as he did late last month when he closed loopholes that make it easier for guns to fall into the wrong hands.