We woke up this morning to a huge Colorado politics story from CNN, taking a deep dive into the local and national politics of gun safety–and how the changing political landscape in Colorado is pulling the rug out from under Sen. Cory Gardner’s feet on the issue while the ardently pro-gun local Republican base demands Gardner defy even President Donald Trump and reject even the smallest reforms, including laws on the books in the state he represents:
In the wake of mass shootings that shocked the nation in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, activists have worked to put pressure on Gardner with news conferences, protests and ad campaigns calling on him to support tougher gun laws at the federal level when Congress returns from its summer recess this week.
Gun control advocates argue that the politics of the gun debate have shifted in Colorado and the state is more willing to support stricter gun laws after enduring tragedies like Columbine and Aurora.
But the purple state has also seen a backlash in the face of new firearm laws and it’s not just gun control advocates putting pressure on Gardner.
Gun-rights activists say the Republican senator will pay a price at the ballot box if he supports gun legislation like expanded background checks or a national red flag law — which some Republican lawmakers in Washington have expressed support for — which could help keep guns out of the hands of individuals deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Featured prominently in this story, whether his many detractors in both parties like it or not, is Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO)–also wearing his National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) hat–explaining how Cory Gardner is in deep trouble with or without the gun issue, and that betraying the highly agitated gun lobby in Colorado would fracture Gardner’s base. Brown is joined in this assessment by such local luminaries as RMGO-backed Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and Lesley Hollywood, a freak-right activist from Northern Colorado who has done a great deal of bellicose complaining on social media since the 2018 Democratic landslide.
The story, of course, is principally focused on the recent surge of support for gun safety legislation following continuing mass shootings in 2019, which has led to national and bipartisan calls to pass a federal “red flag” law similar to the law passed in Colorado in 2019 and already on the books in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. This story doesn’t get into polling, but a poll released in late August showed that 70% of Republicans and 67% of gun owners support red flag laws. A poll of suburban women that included Colorado’s swing CD-6 found 90% support for universal background checks on gun sales–a law that has been on the books in Colorado since 2013.
The conclusion of this story is inescapable–Cory Gardner is trapped between a voting public that overwhelmingly demands action to reduce gun violence, and a fringe but extremely vocal faction of the local Republican base who will wreak havoc on his right flank if he voices support for the laws that have already passed and are supported broadly in the state he represents. Gardner has apparently made his choice to stand with Dudley Brown and shore up his base, but at the cost of siding with a tiny minority faction on the gun issue when the issue is in the national spotlight. It’s politically disastrous, and the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent U.S. Senator absolutely cannot afford it.
But how do you escape this predicament? The consensus seems to be that Gardner can’t.