Some weeks ago I had a conversation with a fellow Kossack about the need for sane laws concerning guns. I was told that gun control was a losing issue for Democrats and that it would cause us to lose vote after vote and election after election. As evidence, the Colorado recall results were presented. The other poster, and I am sorry, I don't remember his/her name, explained that in spite of the flood of money into the recall elections from outside groups like Mayors Against Guns, the recalls resulted from an honest grassroots movement.
Well, that thought haunted me, that a vote for gun control could doom a Democrat, and I finally did some investigation of my own on this supposed bell wether recall election that would oust any Democrat who would dare to suggest that universal background checks were a good idea, or that we did not need high capacity magazines.
I found some interesting stuff.
The Colorado recall came after the State enacted some tough new gun control laws. These "tough gun control laws" consisted of: universal background checks for which the purchaser would have to pay a fee, and a limit of 15 rounds of ammunition per magazine. For some people, these 'onerous' rules required an immediate recall of four of the Democratic legislators who voted for them. Because really, a fee for a background checks? That is just so outrageous. And real men (and women) need more than 15 rounds in a magazine because, I don't know, they might need more bullets to hit the target?
About $3,000,000 was spent against the recall by organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mayor Bloomberg, Eli Broad and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Only $500,000 was spent by the NRA and the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity to support the recall.
So they got enough signatures to get two of the four names on the recall ballot in September of 2013. Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron were the targeted members of the Colorado Senate. They were both recalled. Senator Morse was recalled by a 342 vote margin out of 17,845 votes cast. The margin of loss for Senator Giron was larger: 4,154 votes out of 34,556 total votes.
Yes, they both were recalled by the voters of their districts. But the total votes cast were 52,401. Hardly a representative sample. Turnout for the recall was 20 percentage points lower than in the 2012 general election, down from 56.6% to 35.7% in Giron's SD-03 and from 41.5% to 21.3% in Morse's SD-11. And the recall elections had some ethical and legal disputes. Also, only votes from those who showed up at the polls on election day were counted. No mail-in ballots were allowed. In 2012, mail-in ballots showed a 29.4% Democratic advantage in Giron's district, and a 9.4% Democratic advantage in Morse's. BTW, Wikipedia is my source for the numbers and background on the recall. A more detailed look at the results can be found at the Atlas Project.
So then I looked a little closer at Colorado attitudes about guns and laws. Quinnipiac did a survey of Colorado voters in November of last year. The results are fascinating.
42. Do you support or oppose the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado?That looks for sure like the recall represented the majority opinion of Coloradans doesn't it? Except it doesn't represent the opinions, but only the knee jerk reaction that the NRA, through years of hard work, has created in response to the term "gun control."
Total Dem Rep Ind Support 40% 76% 14% 33% Oppose 50% 20% 83% 61%
As shown by the very next question which asked about a specific gun control measure without using the term "gun control."
43. Do you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers?And then another question without the use of the term "gun control":
Total Dem Rep Ind Support 85% 99% 83% 78% Oppose 14% 1% 16% 22%
44. Do you support or oppose a statewide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 bullets?These were the same "tough gun control laws" that allegedly sparked the recall.
Total Dem Rep Ind Support 49% 81% 25% 42% Oppose 48% 17% 73% 55%
The only thing that the recall election proved, for my money, was that the NRA has trained the American public to fear the term "gun control" and the massive grassroots recall movement was only able to get two of the four Senators they targeted on the ballot for recall. It is in no way a reflection of the popular opinion on gun safety regulations, only a reflection of how well we have been manipulated to react to certain words. Hardly a reason for Democrats to give up on trying to change the gun culture in this country.
Perhaps we do need to change the words we use to discuss our rights to stop people from flaunting their handguns during Little League baseball games or using 30 clip magazines, which were once banned, to shoot up a school. "Gun safety" may more accurately describe our goals.
Gun owners are not the only Americans who have rights. We all have the right to enact sane laws that will keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who suffer untreated mentally illness, or those convicted of domestic abuse or other crimes of violence. We also have the right to restrict the types of weapons and ammunition that are used in our communities.
Quinnipiac poll results edited to include the responses of those who identify as Independents.