The first legislative recall election in Colorado history will take place next week in a battle that has become the latest proxy fight in the continuing national gun-control debate.
Voters will hit the polls on Sept. 10 to decide whether two state Democratic senators—Colorado Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron—should lose their seats for their role in passing a package of new gun-control measures earlier this year.
Critics said the laws were jammed through the legislature against the will of the state’s citizens, while gun-control proponents said the measures were common sense.
Aggrieved pro-gun activists gathered enough signatures to trigger the recall elections. Over at the website of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, one can buy t-shirts declaring, “I will not comply.”
“The recalls show that Sens. Morse and Giron have gone too far with their anti-gun agenda,” Dudley Brown, the firebrand founder of the RMGO, said in a statement. “They have not listened to their constituents, the people they are supposed to be representing, and instead, sold out to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's radical East Coast agenda, passing legislation, limiting the rights of Coloradans.”
There’s even a movement afoot in North Colorado to secede from the rest of the state, whose legislature and governor’s mansion are controlled by Democrats.
The new laws also led Magpul, a company that manufactures so-called “high-capacity” magazines, to announce it would move out of the state.
But while Magpul pulled out, lobby money from both sided of the gun debate began pouring in.
Morse and Giron have amassed more that $2 million for their races from Gun-control groups, unions, and national Democrats. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California entrepreneur Eli Broad funneled $350,000 and $250,000, respectively, into the state.
The embattled legislators have also received help from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ Super PAC.
One new group backing Morse and Giron called We Can Do Better has received more than $300,000 from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and unions such as AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, and American Federation of Teachers, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has spent more than $361,000 on the campaign to recall Morse and Giron. Much of that has gone toward blanketing voters with radio, television, and print ads.
Americans for Prosperity, a free-market group tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, distributed door hangers dinging Morse and Giron for their support of Obamacare, not gun control.
While the NRA has thrown its considerable weight into the race, the organization and other said the recall was a local fight above all.
"The important thing for people to remember is that this was a true grassroots operation,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Washington Free Beacon. “The voters thought these two elected officials did not represent their respective districts and consequentially decided to recall them. I've heard many people describe this as undemocratic. On the contrary, this is democracy at work. I think it's great that people are involved and care."
Following the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora, expansive new gun laws were passed in liberal strongholds such as California, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut. Colorado was the most conservative state to pass similar measures.
Whether Morse and Giron will pay the price for their efforts is uncertain.
An August Quinnipiac University poll found Colorado voters opposed the recall election by nearly 30 points, but that poll didn’t specifically query voters from Morse and Giron’s districts.
Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy, a staunch Second Amendment supporter who has appeared in an NRA ad, said the success in gathering signatures for the recall in the first place showed there was clear public support for the effort.
“It's a big hurdle to undertake a recall effort in Colorado,” Brophy said. “It takes 25 percent of the votes cast in the previous election for the position.”
Brophy said that it would be hard to predict the outcome using traditional demographics like party affiliation. “What it comes down to is the percentage of households that are gun-owning households,” he said.