An attempt by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to mend fences with some of his sharpest critics has turned into a PR disaster for the Democratic incumbent.
Hickenlooper attempted an awkward apology to Colorado’s elected county sheriffs, who are vocally opposed to Colorado’s new gun control laws, by saying he wasn’t aware the sheriffs tried to speak to him while the controversial legislation was being debated in 2013.
He also said he had no idea that a new law requiring universal background checks would be controversial, despite the fact that hundreds of people turned up in protest of the bills — including dozens of county sheriffs, who’ve complained that Hickenlooper ignored them during the debate.
“I didn’t find out the sheriffs were trying to talk to me until a week afterwards,” he said in comments late last week to the County Sheriffs of Colorado during the association’s meeting in Aspen, portions of which were videotaped. “By that time all the, whatever was going to hit the fan had hit it.”
The gun laws — including one that limits the size of ammunition magazines — resulted in the sheriffs spearheading a federal lawsuit to overturn them. Gun-parts manufacturers publically disavowed the laws and have moved out of state. Two Democratic state senators were recalled and a third resigned over their support of the legislation.
The sheriffs have long complained that when the bills were being debated in committee — while protesters circled the capital waving signs and honking their horns — they weren’t given time to testify against them.
When pressed on the issue in Aspen by a sheriff who reminded Hickenlooper that he tried to see him in the governor’s office, Hickenlooper interrupted.
“How many apologies do you want?” he said jokingly. “What the fuck?”
Hickenlooper also said of the background check law, “I think we screwed that up completely and I think we did a disservice to you and a disservice to ourselves.”
He said the law was passed without having had all the facts, even though he’d promised to sign the bill when it reached his desk.
“So we were forming legislation without basic facts, which I think is a bad idea in every case,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks reported by Red State. “[It] took almost a month to get all the facts. By that time, I pissed you guys off, you know, they already passed legislation that I said I was going to sign.”
The new law requires a background check for all gun transfers, even between private parties. Sheriffs have said it’s unenforceable.
Hickenlooper apologized to the sheriffs, but the Denver Post reported that his attempt to “charm” them backfired.
“Isn’t this so John Hickenlooper to try to ‘Aw shucks’ and slap his knee and good ol’ boy his way out of an awful situation?” GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told the Post.
“This is what failed leadership looks like,” Beauprez’s campaign wrote in an email.
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