Mike Pence: Stop Admitting Police Racism Exists

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

AP via 9NEWS reports from GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s campaign stop in Colorado Springs yesterday:

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says U.S. society should “set aside talk” of institutional racism in the wake of more police killings of black men.

Pence told a group of evangelical church leaders Thursday in Colorado Springs that recent police shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina require officials to “speak with compassion” and assure the public that “justice will be served.”

But he added that “Donald Trump and I both believe that there’s been far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism in law enforcement.” [Pols emphasis] Pence said “we ought to set aside this talk” that he described as “the rhetoric of division.”

Corey Hutchins at the Colorado Independent further documents Pence’s comments:

“Sadly, our opponent once again refers to what she calls the institutional racism in law enforcement,” Pence said. “We’ve heard this week, again, the systemic racism in law enforcement in this country.”

His voice rising, Pence said he and Trump believe police “are not a force for racism in America,” but “a force for good,” deserving support and respect.

Police violence against minorities is one of the most controversial topics of debate we have in America today, and the recent heightened awareness of the issue following numerous high-profile police killings of African-Americans and resulting protests has forced basically everyone in the country to form an opinion. The truth is that minorities are indeed disproportionately killed while interacting with police compared to whites, and investigations into places like Ferguson, Missouri have revealed what very much appears to be systemic racism in the targeting of black communities with traffic enforcement and other small-time high-fine violations.

Whichever side you fall on with regard to the issue, we cannot imagine any scenario in which not talking about a problem is helpful to the goal of solving it. That seems like the worst possible way to, you know, govern.

But here we are.

State senator shares video showing shady, ugly guns

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado State Sen. Randy Baumgardnbaumgardner-gun-video-9-19-2016er has apparently removed a video, which he’d shared on his Facebook page, showing a man frantically firing weapons (apparently a sawed-off shotgun and fully automatic rifles and pistols) that are shady or, at worst, illegal under federal and state laws), unless you work the loopholes.

Banned high capacity magaizes are also shown in the video, which you can see here.

Baumgardner is glorifying some of the weapons and magazines used in the two worst gun massacres in Colorado history.

Maybe this occurred to him, because Baumgardner apparently removed the video, called a “Case of Mayhem,” sometime after he shared it over the weekend.

A call to Baumbgardner’s office confirming that he shared the video and seeking his reason for posting it, and an explanation for his taking it down, was not immediately returned.

The Moffat County Republican, whose Twitter handle is CapitalCowboy, is part of GOP State Senate leadership.

FratPAC: GOP House Candidate Has Some ‘Splaining To Do

FratPAC.

FratPAC.

The Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene blows the lid off what could be a most damaging story in Colorado House District 3, the open swing-district race between Democrat Jeff Bridges and his Republican opponent Katy Brown:

Katy Brown, the Republican vying for Colorado’s highly competitive House District 3 seat, touts her experience as a web developer, Cherry Hills councilwoman and community service volunteer. Yet she has erased from her public profile one of her pet causes: championing fraternities’ and sororities’ political agenda in Washington. [Pols emphasis]

Brown served from 2012 through December 2015 on the board of the Fraternity Sorority Political Action Committee, also known as FSPAC, or FratPAC. The group describes its role as “helping position the fraternal community [to] influence legislation that will preserve the fraternity and sorority experience for future generations of student leaders.”

…FSPAC spent much of 2015 pushing for the Safe Campus Act, a bill introduced by three House Republicans that would have made it tougher for universities and colleges to suspend or sanction students accused of sexual violence. The measure would have restricted schools from investigating sex assault cases unless police are involved. It also would have extended due process rights to fraternities and sororities so that, as FSPAC wrote, “entire organizations cannot be suspended without cause.”

Victims’ groups and college administrators’ guilds condemned the police reporting requirement, saying it would intimidate some sex assault victims and prevent them from coming forward. Some critics denounced the bill for giving more protections to frat boys than to rape victims. Ultimately, some sorority and fraternity advocacy groups backed off their support of the bill, saying it was too divisive. It’s unclear whether FSPAC formally withdrew support for the Act, and the organization did not respond to inquiries for this story.

Katy Brown (Alpha Chi Omega).

Katy Brown (Alpha Chi Omega).

The fight over what just about everyone agrees is a major problem with sexual assault on college campuses has raged back and forth with national stories meant to persuade that either the problem is very widespread as experts and victim advocates suggest, or that the problem is exaggerated–and complicated by “personal moral failings” and deception of alleged victims.

In early 2015, Rolling Stone retracted a feature-length story on sexual assault at the University of Virginia after significant problems with the victims’ story were uncovered. Anecdotes like the UVA case are regularly used to discredit all claims of sexual assault, and undermine the larger movement to address the problem.

And that’s the side Katy Brown was on.

Since the UVA scandal, which resulted in the bill supported by Katy Brown’s FratPAC to “protect” alleged rapists on campus, other cases of extremely lenient sentences, like that of convicted Stanford University rapist Brock Turner, and more recently University of Colorado’s Austin Wilkerson, have moved public opinion back toward respect for victims and anger at a status quo that lets rapists walk free.

In a highly educated swing district like HD-3, Brown’s long record as a board member of FractPAC could be a very serious liability. The brief moment of glory the “men’s rights movement” enjoyed when the UVA story was retracted does not change the fact that sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses. As a longtime board member of FratPAC, Brown fought not just against cracking down on “rape culture” on college campuses, but also proposals against hazing pushed by the families of hazed dead students.

If this doesn’t take the shine off Brown’s fluffy-positive “crypto conservative” campaign, we don’t know what will.

Tom Sullivan Scaring The Hell Out of Senate Republicans

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

We’ll post a more comprehensive look at newly-released fundraising numbers for Colorado legislative races covering the period of July 28-August 31, but we wanted to start with a race that Republicans shouldn’t be worried about–but thanks to a uniquely strong Democratic candidate with a compelling background, a seat that’s in play:

SD 27

Tom Sullivan (D)
Raised this period: $31,555.56
Cash on hand: $38,693.58
Total Raised: $101,484.24

Jack Tate (R)
Raised this period: $9,301.00
Cash on hand: $84,126.60
Total Raised: $96,464.17

In the most recent fundraising period, Democratic candidate Tom Sullivan more than tripled appointed incumbent Jack Tate’s haul–$31,500 to $9,300. With that performance in August, Sullivan has now outraised Tate for the entire election cycle, although Tate has more cash on hand as Sullivan spends down his cash campaigning.

Why is this happening? Tom Sullivan’s powerful personal story as the father of an Aurora theater shooting victim is combining with Sullivan’s by-all-accounts impressive work ethic to put this race in play in a way Senate President Bill Cadman simply never anticipated. This would be the second time Cadman has underestimated Tom Sullivan, the first being when he insulted Sullivan during a legislative panel about gun control–only to be shamed in national media when Sullivan disclosed who he was.

We’ve heard rumors that Republicans are privately growing very worried about this race. We’re not sure what exactly is going on with Jack Tate, who has his own reputation as a good campaigner and fundraiser. If Tate is serious about holding on to Dave Balmer’s old Senate seat, to which he was appointed just last December after Balmer’s resignation, he can’t afford to get humiliated like this.

But for Tom Sullivan, sweet revenge against Cadman is closer than ever.

Aurora Victims Ordered To Pay Massive Court Costs–Again

FRIDAY UPDATE: Cinemark appears to be feeling the sting of bad press, with 9NEWS updating last night on the company at least starting to back off–with caveats, of course:

The victims of the Aurora theater shooting have been given an ultimatum: They will not have to pay the nearly $700,000 in court costs they owe the nation’s third largest theater chain if they drop their appeals in a civil case…

Among the people who sued Cinemark and now may have to pay thousands of dollars are the families of Alex Teves and Jessica Ghawi, who died in the movie theater. Yousef Gharbi, who survived a bullet wound to the head and Farrah Soudani, whose friends had to hold her insides in after she was shot, also owe the theater money.

…9NEWS Legal Expert Scott Robinson told 9NEWS back in June that he believes Cinemark asked the victims to repay court costs “to discourage future lawsuits against their chain for personal injuries.”

“The question is, how big is going to be the backlash that the public chooses to impose on what appears to be a corporate bully?” Robinson said.

—–

Aurora shooting memorial, July 2012.

Aurora shooting memorial, July 2012.

Salon reports on yet more insult piled on injury for survivors of the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater–after the family of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi was ordered to pay the legal fees of online gun and body armor dealers after unsuccessfully suing them for damages, more victims are on the hook for massive amounts of money to corporations who, it can be reasonably argued, need it a lot less:

In 2012, 12 people were killed and at least 70 others were wounded when James Holmes walked into the Cinemark’s Aurora Century 16 theater and opened fire.

While Holmes was found guilty in 2015, a group of survivors filed a state lawsuit against Cinemark in 2012, claiming lax security allowed the heavily-armed Holmes to enter the theater and carry out the shooting. Ultimately, a jury of six sided with Cinemark in the civil case in state court, finding that there was no way they could have foreseen the attack and that additional security would have done little to stop Holmes, who was wearing body armor and was armed with gas canisters and multiple firearms.”

A judge at the same time also dismissed a similar lawsuit in federal court, saying Cinemark’s lack of security was not a substantial factor in the deaths.

Colorado law allows the winning side of civil cases to seek costs. [Pols emphasis] According to the Los Angeles Times, Cinemark’s lawyers at the time told a judge the money was needed to cover the costs of preserving evidence, retrieving and copying records, travel and other expenses – including $500,000 for expert testimony.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, survivors are now on the hook for some $700,000 in court costs largely because a few survivors refused a settlement offer from Cinemark:

“It was the 12th hour, we were all feeling the same way. We all knew they were liable. We knew they were at fault,” Weaver said. “[The settlement] was a slap in the face. But I said, ‘Let’s go for it because it’s better than nothing.’”

The deal came with an implied threat: If the survivors rejected the deal, moved forward with their case and lost, under Colorado law, they would be responsible for the astronomical court fees accumulated by Cinemark… [Pols emphasis]

Then one plaintiff rejected the deal. Her suffering had been profound: Her child was killed in the shooting, she was left paralyzed and the baby she was carrying had been lost.

The settlement offered by Cinemark’s lawyers was for $30,000 to each of the three most severely injured plaintiffs, with the remaining 38 splitting up a paltry $60,000 between them. It’s not for us to judge whether this monetary settlement should be considered appropriate given Cinemark’s alleged liability, or whether the wounded plaintiff who lost her unborn child was justified in rejecting the deal.

What we can say is that these victims should not be paying Cinemark. We understand that Colorado law as it stands today is intended to protect defendants in civil suits by forcing plaintiffs to consider the consequences of frivolous lawsuits. In this case, however, much like the suit by Jessica Ghawi’s parents against online weapons dealers, it was not a frivolous suit–certainly not when you realize that Cinemark was about to settle.

Today it’s being reported that the plaintiffs are appealing the order to pay Cinemark $700,000 in “reasonable” court costs. We hope that this situation is resolved in a way that doesn’t cause further harm to victims and survivors of the Aurora shooting. Looking ahead, a legislative revisiting of this unfortunate situation seems called for.

This is not an outcome for anyone to celebrate.

Laura Woods raffles off an AR15

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: Sen. Laura Woods wants to be sure you’re clear:

—–

woodsar15

Desperate for attention and apparently cash starved, one brick shy of a full load Senator Laura Woods has decided to auction off every mass killer’s weapon of choice, an AR15 to fund her floundering campaign.

This is good news for Rachel Zenzinger, Woods’ sane opponent, in that these types of antics will not work in the Arvada/Wesminster senate district they are both seeking to represent.

Yes Folks, Darryl Glenn Is a Whackadoo

CBS4’s Stan Bush reports on a budding scandal involving Colorado GOP U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn, caught on tape in June speculating about the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub earlier that month:

At a candidate forum June 22 the El Paso County commissioner made unsubstantiated claims that President Obama directed the FBI to not investigate the Orlando night club shooter, Omar Mateen, before the massacre.

“But it sounds like there might be some political things happening where they’re given direction to look a different way. Why don’t we start there?” said Glenn…

Glenn said the FBI takes “direction from the top” in his answer, and repeats his claim two more times before completing his response.

“I think we need to have hearings on this. I think people need to be held accountable. I want to know whether or not our FBI personnel were personally directed to look the other way. [Pols emphasis]

“The president should be held to account for that if he gave direction that limited the FBI.”

The allegation that President Barack Obama might have “directed” the FBI to end their investigation of Orlando mass murderer Omar Mateen was just one of many ways that right-wing armchair prognosticators tried to rationalize the politically inconvenient aspects of that shooting in its immediate aftermath–much the way the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter was widely speculated to be a “transgender leftist” on the flimsiest of evidence in that shooting’s aftermath. In this case, the usual right-wing presumptions that Obama is some kind of Al Qaeda “Manchurian Candidate” President who wants to make us all pray to Mecca underly the whole discussion.

But as FactCheck.org had already reported before Darryl Glenn made these ill-advised remarks, there’s not a shred of truth to any of this foolishness:

FBI Director James Comey has said that the FBI over the course of two preliminary investigations in 2013 and 2014 recorded Mateen’s conversations, followed him, introduced him to confidential sources, interviewed him, “review[ed] transactional records from his communications, and search[ed] all government holdings for any possible connections.” Both investigations closed without the FBI taking any action against Mateen, because, Comey said, there was no reason at that time to suspect Mateen had terrorist ties or intentions…

The fact that the preliminary investigation closed after 10 months indicates that the agency felt its investigation was completed. FBI rules discourage conducting preliminary investigations beyond a year, but a longer extension can be approved “by the appropriate FBIHQ operational section for ‘good cause.’”

Don Borelli, a retired FBI counterterrorism supervisor in New York, told the New York Times that the danger in keeping an investigation open without good cause is the impact that it can have on innocent people. “Imagine if you can’t get a job because you’re on some watchlist and there’s no basis for it,” Borelli told the Times.

When you get past one or two logical points about the FBI’s investigation of Mateen, it becomes clear that any attempt to personally blame President Obama for the attack is just mindless whisper-campaign prattle–the kind of thing that prior to the advent of Donald Trump had much less credibility. Rep. Mike Coffman came somewhat close to embracing this conspiracist narrative when has said that Obama is a “recruiting tool” for terrorism, but obviously Glenn suggesting that Obama helped Mateen escape scrutiny before the Orlando shooting is a big step further.

Into the Twilight Zone, folks. This might play will with the hardcore talk-radio right, but it’s the kind of talk that turns off undecided middle-road voters and donors — and, really, anyone who has ever employed the use of logic. In a race already rapidly dwindling in national importance due to the growing consensus that Glenn is out of his league, his propensity for nutty rhetoric is enough to put the question to rest.

Darryl Glenn is just not a serious candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Laura Woods Blames “The Left” For Yard Sign Vandalism

woodsvandalized1

Let’s start by saying unequivocally that we don’t condone vandalism, against politicians or anybody else. As you can see in the photo above being circulated by Republican Sen. Laura Waters Woods’ campaign, somebody vandalized one of her yard signs being displayed on the fence of an Arvada constituent earlier this month.

And if you’re to the left of Woods on the political spectrum, she blames you.

Within 5 days Team Woods has had two banners vandalized. One at 92nd and Ingalls was stolen within 20 hours of being hung, and one on Pierce was spray painted! All of this brought to you by the “tolerant left”!! [Pols emphasis]

In a comment on Facebook to the photo posted above, Woods explains her blame further:

In two election cycles, I’ve had banners painted, vandalized, knocked down and stolen and my opponent’s signs are untouched. THAT’S why I blame the left…

Now, we of course don’t know who decided to tag Woods’ yard sign, but from experience we can tell you in these situations it is almost never one’s political opponents who commit crimes like petty vandalism of yard signs. It’s true that Woods has big vinyl signs all over Senate District 19–and their ubiquitous presence might all by itself be a motivator for some juvenile delinquent with a can of spray paint to deface one.

Either way, it’s silly and irresponsible to blame one’s opponent for this kind of thing with no proof. Woods claims she has installed motion-sensing “game cameras” near some of her banners in an attempt to record future acts of vandalism. If Woods actually catches an adult with any bonafide connection to her opponent vandalizing her signs, or has her allegations against “the left” confirmed in any way by competent investigators, we’ll be the first to apologize and correct the record.

Otherwise, it’s another exercise in paranoia–from a lawmaker so paranoid she was afraid to use her real name on the radio.

Get More Smarter on Friday (July 8)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Read this, then go outside and get some fresh air. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others injured by a sniper targeting police during a protest against police violence. From CNN:

The ambush began with gunshots that killed five officers and sent screaming crowds scrambling for cover. It ended when a Dallas police bomb squad robot killed a gunman after negotiations failed.

Now investigators are trying to piece together answers to key questions: Who was responsible for the shootings, which began Thursday night during a protest against police violence and left parts of downtown Dallas under siege for hours? And are any other suspects on the loose?

The deadly gunfire erupted in Dallas as videos showing two African-American men shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota spurred protests and debate over police use of force across the country.

The Dallas sniper attacks are yet another horrific example of violent gun crime in America, and the deadliest single day for U.S. law enforcement since September 11, 2001. In the wake of the shootings, the spokesperson for the Colorado Senate Republicans inexplicably and disgustingly took to social media to blame President Obama for the attacks. As we wrote earlier today:

In short, to call this response to the Dallas shootings from the Colorado Senate Republicans outrageous is a considerable understatement. It may not quite rate as badly as former Rep. Joe Walsh’s declaration of war, but it’s so far from appropriate the morning after this tragedy that it shocks the conscience in nonpartisan terms.

Sean Paige, the mouthpiece for the Senate Republicans, is a former editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette and staffer at the Koch brothers-funded “Americans for Prosperity.”

 

► Jason Salzman catches a curious edit to an archived story in the Denver Post, in which a quote from Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) about his marriage to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been mysteriously removed. The former Post reporter who wrote the original story, Lynn Bartels, confirms the missing quote’s existence.

 

► If you thought that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was above the kind of silly political bickering that has gridlocked Congress, then you haven’t been paying attention. As the Denver Post reports:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has joined in efforts to strip Hillary Clinton of her security clearances, part of a coordinated GOP effort to continue to take advantage of her e-mail scandal.

On Thursday, Gardner and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, announced they had introduced a bill to revoke security clearances from Clinton and her key aides when she was secretary of state. Several of those aides are in her campaign’s inner circle. The bill they introduced, the Taking Responsibility Using Secured Technologies (TRUST) Act of 2016, would put Congress on record saying that Clinton should have no access to classified information “until she earns the legal right to such access.”

“If the FBI won’t recommend action based on its findings, Congress will,” Gardner said in a prepared statement. “At the very least, Secretary Clinton should not have access to classified information, and our bill makes sure of it.”

In other words, if law enforcement officials can’t make a case against Clinton, Republican Senators will dress one up instead! As Politico notes, this bit of political theater is unlikely to go anywhere…but it beats actually working on policy issues.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Colorado Senate GOP Blames Obama For Dallas Police Killings

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Last night’s horrific shooting of multiple police officers assigned to a protest against police brutality in Dallas is a central point of discussion today across America. It’s a time to mourn not just the killings, but the setback such violence against police represents for an honest solution to the related issues of use of force against civilians and easy access to weapons in the United States.

Unless you’re the official mouthpiece of the Colorado Senate Republicans.

We pray today not just for the victims of these murders, and for all the loved ones and colleagues of the dead or injured in Dallas, but for this great but troubled country, which hasn’t seen domestic upheavel [sic-Pols] like this since the 1960s.

Barack Obama came into office hailed as a great “uniter,” who would heal old wounds and bring Americans together. On that count, too, he must be judged a failure, as evidenced by the division, fear, lawlessness and almost total lack of “domestic tranquility” he leaves in his wake. [Pols emphasis]

If you’re thinking Senate President Bill Cadman’s press office should have stopped at (and spell-checked) the first paragraph, well, suffice to say that we agree. We most certainly cannot see any rational path to blaming the nation’s first African-American President for the larger problem of police brutality in America, which is committed disproportionately against African-Americans. To suggest that President Barack Obama is even peripherally responsible for last night’s attack on police officers in Dallas relies on fundamentally racist presumptions.

In short, to call this response to the Dallas shootings from the Colorado Senate Republicans outrageous is a considerable understatement. It may not quite rate as badly as former Rep. Joe Walsh’s declaration of war, but it’s so far from appropriate the morning after this tragedy that it shocks the conscience in nonpartisan terms.

At the very least, please don’t accuse the gun control folks of “politicizing a shooting” ever again.

Colorado Crime Report Shows Guns are Still Killing People

Outside of the United States, you are more likely to be killed by a falling object than by gun violence.

Outside of the United States, you are more likely to be killed by a falling object than by gun violence.

Do guns kill people? Or do people (with guns) kill people?

The answer is: Yes.

As the Denver Post reports on the release Tuesday of the annual “Crime in Colorado” report:

Colorado residents were most likely to be killed in their homes by someone they knew who had a gun. [Pols emphasis] Of the 172 homicides last year, 70 percent of the people who died knew their killers whether they were acquaintances, spouses  or parents; 55 percent happened inside a residence; and 66 percent were shot to death.

Opponents of any sort of gun safety measures like to use the talking point, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” as though there is some sort of meaningful difference in the two statements. In the United States, you are as likely to be killed by a gun as you are to die in a car accident. These are statistical facts. Period.

Of course, guns are not the only way to kill people, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated as a significant health and safety risk. In Colorado, you are more likely to be murdered by a gun than by any other instrument of harm — including anvils. We understand the Second Amendment arguments surrounding firearms and the delicate political nature of these discussions. But as the latest crime report in Colorado demonstrates once again, suggesting that “guns” are not a very real and documented problem is just plain silly.

BREAKING: Shooting At Colorado Liberal Political Office Building

The Alliance Center, Denver CO.

The Alliance Center, Denver CO.

A terrible story taking over local headlines right now, though there’s not much to say just yet. Denver Post:

Denver Police and emergency crews swarmed into lower downtown Tuesday afternoon after a gunman opened fire inside a crowded office building. Police said the gunman is dead.

One woman was taken to Denver Health in critical condition with multiple gunshots, said Dr. Eric Lavonas.

Police closed streets near 15th and Wynkoop and urged merchants and residents in the area to shelter in place. Police said officers have cleared the shooting scene at the Alliance Center in the 1500 block of Wynkoop in what remains an active investigation. The building houses a number of left-leaning political and environmental groups.

We’ve heard early reports suggesting that the employees of a number of liberal and environmental groups who have offices at the Alliance Center, including Conservation Colorado and Common Cause, were not injured. We’ll update once we learn more about the victim(s) and the shooter.

Scary stuff, folks–but as always, let’s be careful about speculating until we know more.

Democrats Flummox GOP with House Sit-In on Gun Violence

Democrats in the House during their "sit-in" demanding votes on gun violence legislation.

Democrats in the House during their “sit-in” demanding votes on gun violence legislation.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives — including Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter — ended their “sit-in” effort to force Congress to vote on new gun violence legislation, but not without succeeding in raising the level of political importance for the issue. As the New York Times reports:

The Democrats ended their sit-in about 1 p.m. on Thursday, about 25 hours after it began. Mr. Ryan interrupted them on Wednesday by personally reclaimed control of the House, pounding his gavel and muscling through a major appropriations bill without debate. He and the Republicans, who hold the majority, then declared the House adjourned with no votes until after the Fourth of July holiday — leaving Democrats to continue their protest effort in a dormant chamber.

Still, Democrats finally relented several hours later. They gave speeches all through the night, which they broadcast using Periscope, the live streaming feature of Twitter. And they said they would continue to press their case throughout the recess for votes to tighten the nation’s gun control laws…

…By pushing through the appropriations bill — it included $1.1 billion in emergency financing to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus — on a largely party line vote without any debate, Mr. Ryan had to abandon his commitment to regular order in the House. That was a step that he said he had taken with absolutely no remorse, given the Democrats’ efforts at obstruction.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been trying hard to spin the Democrats’ move as a “publicity stunt,” conveniently ignoring the obvious point that the reason this move earned so much media coverage is precisely because of the Republican response. As the Washington Post reports:

Republicans, unsure about how to deal with a sit-in that started on the House floor yesterday at 11:30 a.m., tried to talk over Democrats and hold routine votes. Then, around 3:30 a.m., they adjourned the chamber until after July Fourth – two days earlier than planned. In so doing, they’ve guaranteed that the debate about gun control will roil the congressional recess and remain a dominant storyline for the next two weeks.

“This isn’t trying to come up with a solution to a problem; this is trying to get attention,” the Speaker complained on TV late last night. That is neither true nor fair. In fact, nearly two weeks after the mass murder of 49 in Orlando, Democrats are merely trying to secure up-or-down votes on a variety of very specific gun control proposals – including a measure that would prevent suspected terrorists from being able to buy firearms and another that would expand background checks. [Pols emphasis]

Speaker Ryan can bellyache about this maneuver as much as he wants, but any claims that Democrats are interfering with the daily matters of the House are falling on deaf ears thanks to his Senate colleagues. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared earlier this year that the Senate would refuse to even hold a hearing on selecting a new Supreme Court judge — blatantly ignoring the Constitution — he ensured that Republicans alone would own the title of obstructionists.

Republicans will likely continue to dig-in on the issue and refuse to do anything related to guns, but the massive amount of media coverage generated by House Democrats ensures that such a move is more than just a political gamble in 2016 — for a number of Republican candidates and incumbents, their future in elected office is now tied directly to Congressional inaction on gun violence.

 

State Senate GOP: Colorado Pols Has “No Credibility”

We posted a few examples yesterday of social media responses from Colorado Republican state senators, as well as the official account of the Colorado Senate Republican press office, both blaming President Barack Obama for last weekend’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as well as at least one post disparaging LGBT Americans themselves in the hours after the attack. The latter was posted by Sen. Randy Baumgardner:

Baumgardner facebook

Baumgardner’s Democratic opponent in Senate District 8 this year, Emily Tracy, reacted angrily to our blog about Baumgardner’s anti-gay post-Orlando Facebooking:

To which the Senate GOP responded with an attack…on us?

So folks, we can take the heat. But can we ask in all seriousness how our writing about Baumgardner’s social media content “distorts, deceives, or demeans” anyone? If anything, we would say those terms all apply to…well, to Baumgardner’s Facebook post, wouldn’t they? Not to our calling attention to it. Right?

We get that this response from the official Colorado Senate GOP mouthpiece is more of a knee-jerk insult than a thoughtful comeback. But given the very clearly “demeaning” material we called out in our post yesterday, to which we have yet to see any substantive response, this all seems like especially nonsensical bile.

And it surer than hell doesn’t make the one-seat Senate GOP majority look good.

Bennet Joins Post-Orlando Gun Safety Filibuster


As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined with fellow Democrats this week in a day-long filibuster to call attention to the need for enhanced gun safety legislation following last weekend’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, up for re-election in Colorado this fall, joined 30 of his Democratic colleagues in D.C. for a filibuster about gun laws [Wednesday] following the latest massacre, this time in Orlando, which left a bloody mark as the worst single-gunman mass shooting in U.S. history…

When Bennet took the floor, he talked about the difference between the ways Colorado lawmakers and Congress have reacted to gun violence. Colorado has passed new laws; Congress has not.

“Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators actually rose to the occasion to take some tough decisions … they got together and they actually strengthened our background check system. Colorado’s legislature closed the gun show loophole and the internet loophole and required a background check for every gun sale,” Bennet said.

The Senator then ran down the list of what that has meant for Colorado in practice within the past year.

“I want to be precise about this,” he said, noting that in 2015 background checks had blocked 7,714 people from buying guns, a figure that made up about 2 percent of the applications for firearms purchases.

Those within that 2 percent included murderers, rapists, domestic abusers and kidnappers who were denied guns because of the new rules, Bennet said.

“Is there anyone who is going to come to the floor of the United States Senate and say that Colorado is worse off because we’ve kept guns out of the hands of murderers or kidnappers or rapists?” he asked. “This isn’t mythical. This is the actual fact of what’s going on in a Western state that has background checks.” [Pols emphasis]

Bennet’s defense of Colorado’s landmark gun laws is in fact very important to the national debate now taking place over strengthening federal gun safety laws. One of the most critical reforms sought nationally has been standard practice in Colorado in part since 2000 and fully since 2013: universal background checks, both on gun purchases made at gun shows (2000’s post-Columbine Amendment 22) and on most private transfers of guns outside immediate family members (2013’s House Bill 1229).

Colorado’s experience with closing loopholes that allowed weapons to be purchased without a background check has shown that these are workable policies that do result in thousands of gun sales to criminals being stopped–both outright denied purchases, as well as the deterrent effect of having the policy in place. That a Western state like Colorado with its long tradition of gun ownership can successfully implement strict background checks on gun sales shows it can be done nationally–neutralizing a key argument of the gun lobby against them. Politically, Colorado is increasingly a model for passing gun safety legislation and then successfully weathering fierce political reprisals from gun rights zealots. After the high water mark of the 2013 recall elections, the new laws have notably failed to become the cautionary tale the gun lobby wanted them to be.

As desperate as the gun lobby was to stop Colorado’s push to tighten gun laws after the Aurora theater massacre, or failing that to at least contain their spread by exacting a heavy and lasting political toll, their failure is evident with each horrific killing spree. At least for a little while, the conversation inevitably comes back to the easy availability of military weapons that can cut down dozens of people effortlessly. Colorado didn’t want to take the lead on gun safety, it was a responsibility placed on our state by events no one would ever wish for.

When the rest of America is ready, Colorado will still be the model.