As Colorado lawmakers entered the last frenzied 72 hours of the legislative session – 90 bills were still on the docket when the legislature was called to order Monday morning – four state politicians are facing efforts to recall them from office.
Recall drives are in full swing against Senate Democrats John Morse, Evie Hudak and Angela Giron as well as Democratic Rep. Mike McLachlan.
Citizens groups angry about these lawmakers’ stances on gun control are collecting signatures to try and force a special election. To make the ballot, they must collect a number of signatures equal to 25 percent of the total vote in their districts.
Colorado has passed tough gun laws from its Democratic-controlled legislature in recent months, resulting in heated debate, numerous protests and even death threats against some lawmakers.
In March, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law measures that ban magazines that hold more than 15 rounds, mandate universal background checks for all firearms transfers and require gun buyers to pay for those checks.
Two other bills – one which prohibits gun ownership by people who have committed domestic violence and one requiring face-to-face instruction for concealed carry permits – are expected to be signed into law.
Morse, the state Senate president, introduced what was arguably the most controversial gun control proposal of the session, one that would have held owners, sellers and manufacturers of assault-style weapons liable for any damage resulting from their use. Opponents said it amounted to a de facto ban on such weapons.
During a heated, late-night debate on a slate of gun proposals, Morse killed the bill when it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to get out of the Senate.
Democrats in Morse’s El Paso County district formed an issue committee – called “A Whole Lot of People for John Morse” – to fight the recall effort, which needs only 7,178 signatures to qualify.
The most recent filing available on the Colorado secretary of state’s website shows that A Whole Lot of People has collected contributions from six people.
The committee paid for a “public awareness alert” warning voters to beware of giving personal information to petitioners, who, they warned, may be criminals or sex offenders.
In fact, recall petitions only ask for people to give their name, address and signatures, and the information is given to the secretary of state.
The group behind the recall, the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, called the alert “misleading.”
“Their antics are really about trying to scare people into being afraid of their fellow citizens who are demonstrating democracy in action,” the group wrote on its website.
Organizers behind the drive to recall Giron said it’s a bipartisan effort, with the president of the pro-gun Pueblo Freedom and Rights group telling the Colorado Observer that the person designing their material has Obama stickers on his car.
Giron is being targeted for supporting the laws Hickenlooper has signed.
The same is true for Hudak, who further angered critics when she made a flippant comment to a rape survivor testifying against a bill that would have banned concealed weapons on campus.
“[C]hances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you,” Hudak told the woman, after saying “statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun.”
Its sponsor killed the bill and Hudak later apologized for the comment, saying she didn’t mean to be insensitive.
The effort to recall McLachlan seems to have the biggest hurdles to clear. A message on the Recall Mike McLachlan website notes that petitioners have only collected about half the 10,587 signatures needed to force a special election. The deadline for that petition is May 21.
Not all gun-rights advocates think the recall efforts are wise. Dudley Brown, the director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights, told the Denver Post last month that the money and effort would be better spent targeting Democrats in the 2014 election.