Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Colorado and the Politics of Gun Control

A series of inexplicable, random shooting tragedies, especially Sandy Hook Elementary School, led to a reappraisal of the nation’s gun control laws after the 2012 elections. President Obama shelved his second term agenda to push for new gun control legislation at the federal level. Momentum seemed great; the media was strongly supportive. The President’s proposal never made it out of the Democratic controlled Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid did not dare bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. The Republican House of Representatives probably would have rejected it. The blame for the failure was cast on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and special interests. Greater success was obtained in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Colorado. Gun manufacturers have moved out of Connecticut and New York in response. The biggest backlash was in Colorado, where voters yesterday recalled two gun control Democratic state senators, replacing them with conservative Republicans. Many Democrats forgot the lesson of 2000. Vice President Al Gore lost the presidential election because he lost Tennessee and West Virginia. Had he carried either one of these two states, Florida would have been irrelevant. Al Gore would have been President. His attacks on coal cost him the coal state of West Virginia, a once reliably Democratic state. Tennessee was his home state; hence, he should have won Tennessee. He lost it because of his advocacy of gun control. Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry made it a point to be photographed as a hunter to symbolically indicate he was against gun control. Presidential candidate Barack Obama muttered nice statements in 2008 about the right to bear arms. President Obama, after winning reelection in 2012, dropped any pretense of supporting gun rights. Sandy Hook was the “emergency,” which he hoped to take advantage of. He failed. The lesson of 2000 is that gun control is not a winning issue at the national level or in most states for Democrats. Voting for gun control is a safe vote for Democrats in heavily blue states, such as Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. It is also a safe vote in blue or purple states if the Democrat represents a large city. Otherwise it can be political suicide in blue or purple states. Gun owners are often single-issue voters, even if they are liberal on other issues. Colorado reinforced that premise yesterday. The state had historically leaned conservative in national elections, but has elected Democratic governors and senators, and twice voted for President Obama in recent elections. Colorado is becoming a blue state. Colorado is sadly the state of two of the nation’s worse gun tragedies, Columbine High School and the Aurora theatre killings. The political response by a Democratic legislature and governor was foreseeable. Colorado is still marginally a purple state. A recall effort was mounted against state senators John Morse and Angela Giron. Senator Morse was President of the Colorado Senate, representing Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Senator Giron represented the blue collar, heavily Hispanic, union city of Pueblo. Senator Morse jammed a strict gun control measure through the Senate, holding 7 hearings in one day. He lost yesterday 51-49%. Senator Giron lost by a greater margin, 54-46%. The campaign to recall her was led by three plumbers. A referendum may now be mounted to repeal the legislation itself. Some blame for the senators’ defeat yesterday was cast upon the NRA, which contributed $360,000 to the recall campaigns. However Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, contributed $350,000 to the retention effort, which became a national issue. The money spent to retain the two senators was about ten times greater than the funds that opposed them. This election should be a warning sign to politicians who support gun control, but don’t represent solidly liberal urban areas. It's easy to support gun control in cities, such as Chicago, New york, or San Francisco. Gun control though is not a winning political issue for Democrats in much of America.

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