Jon Caldara, gun-lover and president of the libertarian Independence Institute, has dipped himself into a boiling vat of hot water and seems to be loving it.
In a war that pits the Colorado right against the Colorado far-right and that has simmered for weeks, Caldara has taken on state Rep. Patrick Neville and other Republican lawmakers for their “no-compromise” approach to the state’s gun-control laws. Caldara finds the approach unproductive and self-serving.
Earlier this month, Neville introduced legislation backed by hardcore Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun politics group headed by political brawler Dudley Brown that spends tens of thousands of dollars to shape Republican primary politics in the state. The Nevilles — Rep. Neville and his father Sen. Tim Neville — are closely tied to to the group. Rep. Neville’s bill proposed repealing a 2013 state law banning ammunition magazines that contain 16 rounds or more.
Caldara and his Independence Institute supported the bill. When Democrats came around to a compromise that would raise the limit to 30 rounds, he and the institute supported that too hoping it would lead to a full repeal.
But Neville wouldn’t budge. He said his bill was about constitutional rights and the need to fight tyranny and mass shooters with an endless supply of bullets.
Neville’s bill was shot down by Democrats. It was bound to fail. Indeed even designed to fail, argued the Independence Institute’s gun-policy wonk, Dave Kopel. He said the bill was just a reactionary attempt to create panic among gun lovers so they would throw money at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
Caldara, alongside Republican stalwarts such as Tom Tancredo, said Dudley Brown and the Nevilles had botched efforts to protect Second Amendment rights.
In response, three days ago, Rep. Neville and several other Republican lawmakers wrote an open letter criticizing Caldara’s stance on the magazine-ban repeal and the way he has represented the issue to the media.
“These past couple of weeks, we have been disappointed with your narrative in the media regarding SB15-175, a bill that would have repealed the unconstitutional magazine ban on law-abiding Colorado citizens,” the letter states.
Below are some choice comments from Caldara’s Facebook page, an excerpt of an op-ed he wrote in the The Colorado Statesman and the lawmakers’ letter in its entirety.
Here, Caldara calls the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners position “insane.”
Here he says the bill “blows my mind.”
Here Caldara celebrates the left’s success with an incremental approach to public policy and suggests Republicans should give it a shot.
Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed Caldara wrote for The Colorado Statesman published yesterday. He goes full tilt:
[blockquote]Dudley’s contribution to the fight is to tell law-abiding citizens to “shut your pie hole,” to buy magazines illegally, and go after the real “anti-gunners.”
We’ll take one of Dudley’s suggestions. We will go after the real “anti-gunners.” That’s why we are standing up to Dudley Brown.
In 19 years, Dudley has raised millions of dollars from Colorado gun owners, and has never passed a pro-gun bill in the State Legislature.
Here is the letter from Neville and company:
In the cartoon at the top, The Colorado Independent‘s Mike Keefe poked fun at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Dudley Brown. Caldara appears third from left, the wary figure taking in the spectacle of Brown as a ludicrous Yosemite Sam character. Caldara tweeted out the cartoon after it appeared in the Independent.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Caldara and The Independence Institute did not support Neville’s full repeal of the ban. Indeed, they did. They did not support a no-compromises position with the Democratic proposal to raise the ban to 30 rounds. Via Caldara:
“We never opposed the bill in fact we strongly supported it and said it only about a gazillion times. And we NEVER said it went too far!” wrote Caldara. “But since full repeal couldn’t get out of state affairs we fought to see a 30 round bill, as a step towards full repeal…”