With all of the meta-discussion in this latter half of the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly about the prospect of backlash, blocking statutes by petition, recalls, and all the other bellicose threats from the losers of the 2018 elections over the agenda of the winners, we thought it would be useful to highlight once again some of the rhetoric that underpinned the discontent that ultimately led to the 2013 recall elections against two Democratic targets of opportunity on the Colorado Senate.
Like this statement from then-GOP Sen. Kent Lambert on March 27, 2013, six years ago yesterday:
We have banned, effectively banned gun ownership, from the citizens of the state, including our active duty military members, and our National Guard members.
That’s Sen. Lambert claiming during the debate on the 2013 budget that the laws passed that year, closing the private sale background check loophole and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, “effectively banned gun ownership.” Today, with the 2013 laws on the books for six years and guns continuing to be sold at a brisk pace, we know that this assertion was absolute nonsense–but back in 2013, with Republican opposition to the bills raging at a fever pitch, the local press did almost nothing to fact-check the just plain stupid accusations that sent hundreds of angry gun owners to the Capitol in protest.
And of course, Sen. Lambert was far from alone:
That’s Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute–who in 2013 warned that if Colorado House Bill 13-1224 limiting gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds were to pass, “almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again.” This false claim was based on a purposefully strained interpretation of the plain language of the bill, debunked in an implementation memo from Republican Attorney General John Suthers. But much like Lambert’s claim that Democrats were “effectively banning gun ownership,” the lie traveled around the state before anyone had a chance to refute it.
This kind of absurd lying went on and on, unchecked all the way through the 2013 recall season. Senate President Bill Cadman said the state should “shut down the Department of Natural Resources” since hunters can’t bring their guns to the state anymore, a statement that had no basis in reality whatsoever. In a radio interview on March 23, 2013, Sen. Lambert had gone even further, actually claiming that “everybody” would have their guns confiscated within a couple of years:
And now, you know, with everybody having their guns confiscated or taken away here over the next couple years, almost completely overturning the Second Amendment, what’s going to happen to our crime rate?
In addition to motivating grassroots support for the recalls, these falsehoods also had the effect of sowing confusion ahead of Colorado’s highly revenue-positive hunting season–so much so that then-Rep. Bob Rankin actually proposed a budget amendment for an education program to explain to misinformed gun owners that yes, you can still hunt in Colorado with your own very much still-legal guns! There’s little question in retrospect that much of the desperate anger instilled in grassroots supporters of the 2013 recalls was fueled by this deliberate misinformation.
Today, all the talking heads in Colorado politics are chattering about the prospect of recalls, and citing the events of 2013 as evidence of the danger to majority Democrats. But the two things that nobody seems to be talking about are how the politics of guns have shifted since 2013 toward support for more gun control, and how the 2013 recalls were driven by falsehoods that should embarrass those who spread them today.
Some if the names have changed. Some haven’t. But the smell remains the same.