Colorado recalls a setback for gun control supporters nationally

W. James Antle III | Managing Editor

Colorado’s recall elections were not just about two Democrats fighting — unsuccessfully — for their political lives. It was an epic showdown between the National Rifle Association and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns over a series of gun control measures many Democrats would like to implement nationally.

Liberal groups raised nearly $3 million in support of the two Democrats while pro-recall forces hauled in a mere $540,000, according to the Denver Post. Bloomberg, who also saw his preferred successor Christine Quinn knocked out of the New York mayor’s race Tuesday, personally contributed $350,000.

“For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up,” Angela Giron told the New Republic last month. “And they understand that.”

Giron was one of the two Democratic state senators recalled Tuesday. She was bounced from her seat by 56 percent of the voters who turned out.

The Democratic National Committee tried to put a brave face on the results. In a statement, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz attributed the outcome to “voter suppression, pure and simple.”

“Tuesday’s low turnout was a result of efforts by the NRA, the Koch brothers and other right wing groups who know that when more people vote, Democrats win,” she continued, insisting “ultimately, the NRA did not get what it wanted.”

“The recall results will do nothing to change the Democratic control of the Colorado House, Senate and Governor’s office,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And the commonsense gun laws that were passed by popular vote in Colorado will remain intact, including provisions like universal background checks and restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines.”

But the high stakes recall votes in the Centennial State left little room for rationalizing by gun control advocates.

State Senate President John Morse put up a tougher fight than Giron, but his votes for gun control ultimately cost him his seat too. “We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” he said defiantly, according to The New York Times. “If it cost me my political  career, that’s a small price to pay.”

The outcome makes it less likely that gun control bills will advance in Congress ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. This includes the Manchin-Toomey background checks legislation that failed to overcome a filibuster in April.

Proponents had hoped to revive Manchin-Toomey this summer, but immigration and then Syria got in the way. Vulnerable Democrats are less likely to want to go anywhere near it now.

Two Democratic senators who face uncertain re-election prospects, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska, voted against Machin-Toomey. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has already run ads against Pryor. There have been reports that the group intends to do the same against Begich, to the consternation of Democrats trying to preserve their Senate majority.

Many liberals have regarded Bloomberg’s organization as a turning point in the gun control debate. The hope was to build a counterweight to the NRA.

“This is how the NRA ends,” claimed a May New Republic story. “A bigger, richer, meaner gun-control movement has arrived.”

That’s not how Round One turned out.

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