The Flip Side: Recall redux
Colorado’s gun bills and representation
Twelve people lost their lives last year when James Holmes, profusely armed and dressed like the Joker, sprayed Aurora moviegoers with bullets while The Dark Knight Rises played out on the screen. A reporter on this site wrote that the gun control laws passed in this year’s legislative session “came in reaction to the random massacres” in Aurora and Connecticut.
As a coordinator for the final ground game in the effort to recall state Senate President John Morse, the leader of the gun-control effort, I organized a rally a week before the recall election for Colorado sheriffs who opposed the gun control laws. That same day, just down the street, the Morse campaign gathered families of victims of the Aurora shooting in support of the laws limiting magazine size, which they touted as a direct deterrent to future mass shootings.
The Congressional Research Service’s recently released report on “Public Mass Shootings in the United States” underscores the “overarching difficulty confronting experts interested in crafting policy to address mass shootings.” It reads, “Baseline metrics gauging the effectiveness of policies to thwart public mass shootings are often unclear or unavailable.” That didn’t stop Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, a fellow gun-control proponent, from loading up with more than fifteen rounds of rhetoric and aiming it at voters. Their strategy: making stuff up to justify some over-reaching and unfounded legislation while ignoring what many believe is the real issue in mass shootings – the failure of the mental health system. The psychological fitness of a potential assailant may have far more affect on whether he or she will carry out a mass shooting than the availability of guns or magazines.
A while back, I met Jeanne Assam, a member of the security team at Colorado Springs’ New Life Church who was off duty, but packing a gun the day of the 2007 shooting there. The leader of that church estimates that Jeanne saved hundreds of lives by taking out the shooter. Nationwide, there are estimated to have been at least nine potential mass shootings that appear to have been thwarted by a bystander carrying a firearm.
Legislators not only ignored the facts during last session’s gun debates, but also disregarded the views of citizens weighing in on the bills
While the measures were in committee, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said lawmakers changed the rules for hearing testimony three times in three days – more than he had seen in twelve years of testifying at the statehouse. Maketa told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “Apparently ‘expert’ [witnesses] included an individual that was not a resident of Colorado who had no credentials to qualify as an expert except his spouse was a victim of the Tucson, Arizona, shooting. [The man] admitted he had not read the proposed bill and could not speak to specifics regarding this bill.” Meanwhile, countless citizens who had queued up to testify never got the chance, breaking with tradition for committee hearings.
Katherine Whitney, a law student at the University of Colorado and member of Women for Concealed Carry, knew she was representing the views of countless like-minded Coloradans when testified that lawmakers shouldn’t have been pushing for gun control, but rather for bills protecting her right to carry a firearm for her self-defense and safety.
During the session, I heard from lawmakers that Vice President Joe Biden was holed up in Aspen, phoning legislators and urging them to vote for the gun bills. So, who did the Democratic majority listen to? Intimidators from Washington rather than the people of Colorado, some who voted them into office and – as we saw in September – a majority who voted them right back out.
The recalls were very much a response to the new gun laws. But, make no mistake, they also were about far more. Sens. Morse and Giron were recalled because the voters believed they didn’t listen to or represent their views.
Now on the heels of Friday’s Arapahoe High School shooting, Democrats may propose even stricter gun laws such as more “gun free zones” in certain areas throughout the state. If so, they’ll need to manufacture reasons beyond the fictions Morse and Giron were touting last session. It is illogical to view “gun free zones” as a means of protection rather than as a Welcome sign to armed, dangerous and mentally unsound criminals, and as a “Do Not Enter” for law-abiding adults safely carrying firearms.
CNN reported Monday that the intended rampage at Arapahoe High School lasted only 80 seconds, largely because the troubled shooter took his own life when he became aware that an armed sheriffs deputy had entered the library to contain him. If someone else had been carrying in the area where shooter first entered the school, Claire Davis may not have been shot.
Despite this, Democrats likely will continue to tie incidents like Friday’s with arguments that guns are overly available in Colorado. And Republicans, in turn, will do their best to debunk the connection between mass shootings and sane, law abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights.
As we head into a new legislative session in January, challenges to the new gun laws may not see the light of day. The Denver Post asked state Senator Pat Steadman, D-Denver, if the Democratic majority would send repeal legislation to so-called ‘kill committees.’ Steadman said, “I don’t see any more floor debate needed on the gun laws we passed.” Democrats may sweep the gun debate off the statehouse floor. But you can be sure that gun rights advocates throughout the state will kick the issue right back up come next November’s elections.
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