A Colorado ballot initiative to ban concealed weapons on university campuses may have more than enough signatures to head to voters in November — but its supporters are pulling the plug to avoid bringing gun rights supporters to the polls.
It’s a measure of how radioactive an issue gun restrictions can be for liberal or moderate candidates.
After Colorado enacted two controversial laws in 2013 limiting the number of rounds magazines can hold and requiring universal background checks, two Democratic state senators who supported the measures were recalled from office. A third resigned rather than face her own recall, leaving Democrats with just a one-seat majority in the state senate.
That senator, Evie Hudak, created a stir when she told a campus rape survivor that having a gun when she was attacked wouldn’t have made her safer.
The woman had been testifying on a bill to ban concealed weapons on college campuses, which was ultimately killed by the bill’s sponsor before being revived as a possible ballot initiative.
Safe Campus Colorado, the group behind the ballot proposal, now doesn’t want its issue to become a lightning rod in what is already turning out to be a heated campaign season.
“It became evident over the past few months that last year’s gun violence prevention legislation was being used as a political football in a number of Colorado candidate elections,” the group’s director Ken Toltz said in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We are non-partisan and don’t want this important issue to be caught up in the candidate campaigns, so [we] made the very difficult decision not to submit our petitions for this November’s ballot,” he said.
Safe Campus Colorado clearly had momentum. The deadline for submitting the required 86,105 valid signatures is still more than a month away. Most initiatives collect at least 30 percent more than is needed to account for some that inevitably are found invalid. Toltz said his all-volunteer group spent less than $10,000 gathering signatures.
Dave Kopel, the research director for the libertarian Independence Institute — and an attorney who is representing several plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the controversial laws from 2013 — told Colorado Public Radio the decision to stand down is a “huge victory” for supporters of gun rights.
“It’s eminently sensible and prudent for the Democratic establishment in Colorado in 2014 to say we don’t want a gun ballot issue out there,” he told CPR. “Whatever happens with that ballot issue, it’s going bring more pro-gun voters to the polls and then once they are at the polls to vote on the gun issue, they will probably vote also in the candidate races for the more pro-gun candidates.”
Toltz told The Daily Caller News Foundation that his group would continue to advocate for changes in the concealed weapons law.
“We found statewide support for adding colleges and universities to the already existing exceptions in the concealed carry permit law and will continue building awareness and support for a change to the law,” he said.
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