Historic recall effort reflects Colorado’s passions about guns


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Snug against the Rockies, this conservative bastion is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak, scores of evangelical churches and soon, perhaps, the most significant gun control fight in the country.

Unless a judge steps in, John Morse, the Democratic president of the Colorado Senate, faces an unprecedented recall attempt arising from the sweeping gun laws passed after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Morse, a former police chief, calls the legislation an act of sublime leadership and said that being tossed from office, if it happens, is worth the price.

“Tell me that you get 20 6-year-olds shot in the face with a semiautomatic assault rifle … and that your elected officials should say, ‘Hmm'” — he clucked his tongue — ‘”I’m really sorry that happened. I’m not going to do anything about it.’ I mean, if you’re not going to lead in those kinds of moments, why are you in this role?”

Critics say the laws, which raised gun fees, banned the sale of high-capacity magazines and established universal background checks, were an assault on fundamental freedoms that Morse rammed through in a flagrant show of government arrogance.

The bills were signed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who faces reelection next year but is in far better shape politically than Morse, who barely won a second term.

With the gun control debate at a seeming impasse in Congress, both sides agree the ouster of the Democratic leader would resonate far beyond this 6,000-foot-high metropolis, about an hour’s drive south of the Capitol in Denver.

The election, if challenges are surmounted, would occur between late August and early November.

“If you can take out the Senate president in Colorado,” Morse said, seated in his small office just off the chamber, “then, arguably, you can take out any legislator anywhere in the country. And so I do think it would have a chilling effect.”

Laura Carno, whose organization helped bankroll the petition drive against Morse, agreed, saying a recall would serve notice to any wavering lawmaker nationwide who doubts the power and resolve of the gun rights movement.

“What’s at stake in this recall election is the definition of the relationship between citizens and their government officials,” Carno said. “We hire you. We can fire you.”

Originally, opponents took after four Democratic backers of the gun laws, but efforts against two of them fizzled. Activists have also…


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