September 11, 2013
By Laura Carno
Politicians are not kings. We do not elect politicians to tell us what light bulbs we can buy, how much soda we can drink or how best we can defend ourselves. We elect them to listen to us and fight for what we believe in. Though gun safety advocates had quick victories in Colorado, New York and Connecticut, tougher gun laws failed dramatically in Congress, and some states actually loosened their statutes. Now, even some of the tough new state laws could be in trouble — along with the legislators who backed them.
OPPOSING VIEW: Recalls reinforce the proper role of government
Witness what happened in Colorado on Tuesday, where energized gun rights advocates won two recall elections, ousting the president of the state Senate, John Morse, and another senator, Angela Giron. What did Morse and Giron, both Democrats, do to deserve being prematurely ejected from office? What heresy did they commit? They supported laws, adopted in March, that expanded background checks for gun buyers and limited magazine sizes.
Tuesday’s contests, the first recall elections in Colorado history, marked a disappointing new development in state politics. We’ve long argued that recalls should be reserved for the sort of criminal or ethical malfeasance that disqualifies politicians from office, not for punishing them after they make tough or unpopular decisions. That standard applies just as much to last year’s unsuccessful bid by angry liberals to recall Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., as it does to this year’s targeting of the two Colorado legislators.
Not surprisingly, Tuesday’s two small recall elections (combined turnout was about 52,000 voters, down from 70,000 in 2010’s general elections) had gradually grown into a national referendum on the future of the gun debate, and the results should be a wake-up call for supporters of reasonable restrictions.
Fury over incidents such as the Aurora theater shooting and the killing of 20 first-graders at Newtown Elementary School isn’t enough. Until Americans who back limits on guns can consistently match the passion, energy and grassroots organizing skills of gun rights activists, groups such as the NRA will control the debate and largely determine what laws can, and cannot, be passed. Emboldened gun rights supporters are already trying to put Colorado’s gun laws on the ballot in 2014.
In this case, gun safety advocates can’t even complain about being outspent, something they generally have been thanks to the deep pockets of the NRA, which gave $360,000 to the Colorado effort. In Colorado, in fact, contributions from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, liberal California philanthropist Eli Broad and others helped recall opponents raise roughly $3 million — almost six times as much as the gun rights side came up with, according to The Denver Post. The overwhelming money edge clearly wasn’t enough.
Gun control opponents have the same sort of commitment that abortion foes have long shown: No other issue is as important; they consistently vote their convictions; they are in politics for the long haul; and when they suffer losses, no defeat is permanent. Until gun safety advocates can muster the same zeal, their victories could be just as transient
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