Colorado Recall: What It Teaches Us About Gun Control Policy
The Colorado recall election garnered attention, money, and input nationally as a broad referendum on gun control. The recall shows us that sound policy instead of partisan sensationalism is what American citizens want. Previously passed measures – restricting magazine capacity to 15 rounds and universal background checks are not only unpopular, but are utterly useless in preventing crime or mass shootings.
Colorado voters booted out two Democratic state lawmakers on Tuesday in a heated recall effort that generated national headlines as a referendum on the renewed gun control debate. Both Democrats provided crucial support for a package of state gun laws earlier this year, sparking a wave of protest that got their names on the ballot for the state’s first-ever recall at the state level. Morse and Giron both voted in favor of the legislation, signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in March, which requires background checks for all firearm purchases and bans ammunition magazines over 15 rounds.
Voters passed measures recalling state Sen. John Morse, the body’s president, and state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. According to the Denver Post, with almost 100 percent of votes counted in the historic recall election of Morse, returns show 51 percent have voted “yes” and 49 percent “no.” Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo was defeated by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent. The immediate effect of the recalls — the first of their kind in Colorado — was to remove two state senators, Angela Giron of Pueblo and John Morse of Colorado Springs, and replace them with Republicans.
The vote comes on the heels of a series of defeats in the U.S. Senate that ended five months earlier, which included the failure to expand background checks nationally, and handed another loss to gun-control supporters and gives moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws. The special elections were widely seen as a test of whether swing-state voters would accept gun restrictions after mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. A range of philanthropists, liberal political groups, unions and activists raised a total of $3 million to defend Mr. Morse and Ms. Giron. New York City mayor and anti-gun activist Michael Bloomberg personally gave $350,000. The Denver Post reported that proponents of the recall have raised about $540,000. The Colorado Republican Party said the vote sends “a loud and clear message to out-of-touch Democrats across the nation” while Democratic Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, said he was “disappointed by the outcome of the recall elections.
What do the elections means in larger context? Perhaps that swing-state moderates should think twice about restricting rights protected in the Constitution; that remains to be seen. What is clear is that Coloradans value these rights. As I have written previously, both measures passed earlier this year are futile, having no real hope of preventing mass shootings or curbing less sensational murder, or of keeping guns out of criminals hands.
Regarding the magazine capacity restriction to 15 rounds, this is frivolous. Even the County Sherrifs of Colorado Association did not support this measure. Most homicide victims are shot less than four times and shot at less than 10 times. There is no reason to believe this measure will marginally reduce murder. Neither is there any logical reason to believe it would curb mass shootings. Colorado’s most infamous mass shooting – Columbine – occurred during the federal ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ and the shooters used a HiPoint 995 carbine which uses 10 round magazines. Similarly, Virginia Tech – the worst school shooting in U.S. history involved mostly 10 round magazines.
Universal background checks (UBC) may sound like a good idea, but the fact is Justice Department studies show criminals obtain guns less than 1% of the time from gun shows. However, 80% of criminals obtain guns illegally through illegal transfer from a friend or family member or illegal trafficking on the black market. UBC also doesn’t solve for several very real problems in how criminals obtain guns including: theft from private residences, police, and military, failure of Congress to fully fund NICS (the background check system), failure of states to report data to NICS, failure of the Justice Department to prosecute background check fraud currently, and straw man purchases.
Perhaps this recall truly is a broader referendum on gun control, rights and policy. Politicians and media often push what is sensational instead of what years of research supports as realistic policy. If the voters of Colorado have any message to share with the rest of us, it is perhaps that emotionalism and sensationalism do not make good policy. Gun rights advocates want safe streets, schools and shopping centers for our families too. Let’s be honest about what makes good policy and what doesn’t. Education defeats propaganda; Colorado just showed us the truth of that.by