In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, several states took action in the hopes of preventing future gun violence. States like Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut each passed meaningful measures over the objections of far-right activists and the National Rifle Association.
So too did Colorado, where memories of the massacre at an Aurora movie theater were still fresh when the violence in Newtown occurred. Though the state has traditionally been resistant to gun reforms, lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) approved new measures in March to expand background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines -- policies that even conservative Supreme Court justices have said are constitutional.
But the NRA and the right decided these efforts to reduce gun violence cannot stand, and they launched the first-ever recall elections in Colorado history. Yesterday, their gambit worked.
Two Colorado legislators who supported stricter gun control laws lost their jobs on Tuesday in an unprecedented recall election that became the center of the national debate over regulating firearms.Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron were both defeated, the Denver Post reported, in the recall effort.
They'll both be replaced with Republicans allied with the NRA, but this will not affect partisan control of Colorado's state Senate, where Democrats will maintain a narrow majority.
Morse, a former police chief, was slated to leave office next year anyway, making his recall election more symbolic. Giron, first elected three years ago, has vowed to continue to find ways to serve her community.
Morse said last night, "We made Colorado safer from gun violence. If it cost me my political career, that's a small price to pay."
Let's pause for a moment to ponder how remarkable it is that a respected lawmaker's career had to end because he approved legal measures intended to prevent gun deaths.
The NRA, it's worth noting, originally sought five recall elections against Democrats, but in the other three cases, the right-wing group failed to gather sufficient petition signatures.
But what, ultimately, was the point? If control of the state Senate was not at stake, Morse was retiring next year anyway, and the gun reforms aren't going to be repealed anytime soon, why bother with multi-million-dollar recall elections with no precedent in state history?
The answer, of course, was that the NRA and far-right activists want to send a message to policymakers everywhere: efforts to prevent gun violence will end your career, too.
Indeed, the right has been quite explicit on this point. My colleague Laura Conaway posted this item a few weeks ago, featuring remarks from a local recall proponent.
For those who can't watch clips online, the man in the video, Jon Caldara of the Colorado Independence Institute, argued:
"If the president of the Senate of Colorado, who did nothing except pass the laws that Bloomberg wrote, gets knocked out, there will be a shudder, a wave of fear that runs across every state legislator across the country, that says, 'I ain't doing that ever. That is not happening to me. I will not become a national embarrassment, I will not take on those guys.' That's how big this is."
The goal of the NRA and its allies, then, was to create "a wave of fear." Yesterday, they convinced just enough Coloradans who found this message appealing.