Lawmakers around the country are carefully watching Colorado’s historic recall elections for clues as to whether they can survive passing new gun control laws.
“The whole country is paying attention,” said John Caldera, the president of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute.
The recalls of Democratic state senators John Morse and Angela Giron stem from their support for the state’s new gun control laws, one that limits the size of ammunition magazines and one requiring background checks for all gun transfers.
They were adopted during a rancorous legislative session during which conservatives say they were steamrolled by the Democratic majority.
For months, the recall campaigns have drawn big bucks and careful scrutiny from those on both sides of the gun debate from well outside Colorado’s borders.
A major reason, observers say, is because the outcome of the elections could well signal how much leeway — or how little — other state legislators will have in placing their own restrictions on gun ownership.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Kurt Bardella, president and CEO of Endeavor Strategic Communications, which is consulting with the groups seeking to oust Morse and Giron. “What happens in one week will have significant implications for the overall debate on gun-control. … Lawmakers at every level of government see Colorado as a bellwether as to whether they can risk pursuing a more aggressive gun-control agenda.”
Bardella points to news last week that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $350,000 of his personal money to fight the recalls as a sign of how high the stakes are.
“A successful recall in the face of the significant dollars spent by Mayor Bloomberg would represent a crushing personal blow and would raise legitimate questions about his effectiveness and viability in this debate,” Bardella wrote in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Both sides in the Colorado recalls have made similar references to the wider implications of the recalls than just the fates of two lawmakers.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, in an email sent via the Democratic National Committee opposing the recalls, said the new laws were a result of brave Democrats standing up to “outside special interests” who are now “trying to make an example of two of them by forcing them into a recall election.”
Morse, in the first line of a statement that will be included on his recall ballot, called those trying to oust him “out-of-state billionaires and extremists” who are attempting to influence local elections, particularly the National Rifle Association, which has spent about $109,000 on advertising and fliers.
The New York Times reported that both sides have spent a total of about $2 million on the recall elections, most of it in defense of the targeted lawmakers.
A Bloomberg aid told the Times in an email that he would “support officials across the country who are willing to stand up to the N.R.A. and Washington gun lobby to support sane gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals. These two senators did that.”
The recalls have drawn comment in recent days from the Washington Post, the Washington Times and the National Review. The latter endorsed the lawmakers’ ouster in an editorial because “[b]oth ignored the will of their constituents and pushed for limits on the size of magazines and the extension of background checks to private sales.”
Regardless of the outcome, the elections could have wide-ranging effects beyond Colorado, Caldera said.
“This has nothing to do with Colorado,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This has everything to do with Bloomberg and expanding into other states.”
“Since Michael Bloomberg cannot get his anti-gun policies through at a federal level — because Republicans control the House — the only way he can do it is by making gains in the states. If he could get it to happen in Colorado, then that opens up the entire West.”
“He cannot allow either one of these two legislators to be successfully recalled,” he said, “because it will send a message to other Western state legislators that this is a policy you don’t mess with.”
The elections will take place on Sept. 10.
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