Colorado State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were recalled yesterday in an election that the media is describing as having major implications for the future of the gun debate. Both senators were targeted for recall over their support for Colorado's new gun laws, which include expanded background checks and a 15-round limit for firearm magazines.
National groups on both sides of the political divide poured money into the recall elections over the past months. Supporters of stronger gun laws would surely have preferred that Giron and Morse had won.
But before the media returns to promoting the myth of National Rifle Association electoral dominance and suggests that the recall of the two Colorado state senators proves that all elected officials who push for stronger gun laws risk their jobs, here are a few things they should consider.
The Gun Laws Supported By Giron And Morse Are Popular Statewide. On March 20, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law: requiring a background check on all gun sales except those between family members, imposing a $10 fee to process background checks, and limiting firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Giron and Morse's support for these measures was the catalyst for the recall efforts. An August 22 poll by Quinnipiac University found that the majority of voters in Colorado approve of the specific pieces of the gun law package -- they expressed support for expanded background checks by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support for the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. While Giron and Morse were defeated, the legislation they support is popular with state voters at large.
The Recall Turnout Was Extremely Low. A very small number of voters determined the recall election. In fact, voter turnout in Morse and Giron's districts were both substantially lower in the recall election compared to the 2010 state senate elections. Only 21 percent of 84,029 registered voters in Morse's district voted in the recall election. A mere 9,094 people voted in favor of recall; he lost his seat by a margin of 343 votes. Turnout was about 11,000 voters higher in Morse's 2010 senate election. Turnout in Giron's district was only 36 percent; 10,000 more people voted in her 2010 Senate election. Deriving national trends from low-turnout recall elections seems unwise.
Efforts To Recall Other Members Who Supported Stronger Gun Laws Failed. Opponents of stronger gun laws didn't intend to recall just Giron and Morse; they originally targeted two other lawmakers as well. But an effort to recall Sen. Evie Hudak was suspended by organizers three weeks before the deadline. And an effort to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan also failed when the Colorado Secretary of State reported that no signatures were turned in before a deadline.
Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow distorted research findings to warn of a "terrifying link" between video games and mass shootings while dismissing the role of high powered firearms in those incidents.
During the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson claimed, "brand new research suggests there is a terrifying link between video games and violent behavior," before showing images of recent mass shooters who purportedly "were big gamers." Ablow -- claiming that all of the shooters were "addicted to violent video games" -- said that a recent study that found "watching violent video games increases aggression and decreases empathy" to support his claim that video games are linked to mass shootings.
Carlson concluded the segment by saying, "This whole is issue is so much more complicated than just gun control, there are so many other factors, mental illness [and] video games are just two of them":
In fact, the author of the research cited by Carlson and Ablow -- which was actually published in 2010 -- has stated that video games cannot be the sole cause of mass shooting incidents, despite being a proponent of the claim that a relationship exists between video games and real world violence. Ohio State University professor Brad Bushman published the survey of other studies that found a link between playing video games and aggressive thoughts cited by Ablow during his Fox & Friends appearance.
However, in explaining his research on video games in a March 20 New York Daily News op-ed, Bushman wrote, "It is crucial to understand there is no single cause of a crime like [Sandy Hook shooter Adam] Lanza's, and no responsible scholar could claim that violent video games cause murder."
Furthermore, other research disputes the link between violent video games and real world violence.
A Colorado newspaper has repeatedly run an anti-Semitic ad depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, as a puppet-master who controls a state senator the ad's sponsor is seeking to recall from office for supporting stronger gun laws.
The September 8 and 9 editions of the Pueblo Chieftain featured the half-page advertisement. The group responsible for the ad, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, is credited with starting the campaign to recall the ad's target, State Sen. Angela Giron, over her support for legislation that expanded background checks on gun purchases and imposed a 15-round limit on firearm magazine size. Early voting is underway with the election concluding on September 10.
The depiction of a Jewish leader as a puppet-master is widely acknowledged as anti-Semitic imagery because of its relation to conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the political process or global economy.
The ad apparently is a play on the fact that a group backed by Bloomberg has contributed a substantial amount of money in opposition to the recall effort. The recall elections targeting Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) have drawn significant outside spending both for and against the recall, including more than $361,000 spent by the National Rifle Association in favor of the recall.
The Chieftain's decision to allow the publication of Pueblo Freedom and Rights' ad follows a call by progressive groups for a local media outlet to disaffiliate from the Chieftain over its coverage of the recall election.
Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller's new book, Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, is filled with falsehoods about the gun debate and promotes the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that President Obama is planning to confiscate privately held firearms.
Reacting to news that the Obama administration will use executive action to curb gun violence, The Drudge Report titled its top story, "HEAD FAKE: OBAMA GOES AFTER GUNS."
Obama reportedly seeks to restrict the importation of military grade firearms for civilian sale and close a loophole that allows felons to obtain highly dangerous guns without a background check. In contrast to fearmongering by Drudge Report, neither policy will interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
An opinion piece for The Washington Times suggested that "every schoolteacher in America should be armed in the classroom," ignoring that schools -- where guns are typically not permitted -- are among the safest places for young people.
In an August 26 op-ed, Steve Siebold, a motivational book author, also suggested that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six educators dead could have been prevented if teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed in the attack, had been armed with a gun:
If we look back at Sandy Hook last year, first-grade teacher and hero Victoria Soto, who was fatally shot after hiding her kids in a closet and telling the gunman the kids were in the gym, might still be alive had she been armed and able to defend herself. So could a lot of other children and teachers who tragically died that day.
In advocating for the arming of all teachers, and insisting that "If teachers aren't comfortable with that, they may need to find a new profession," Siebold left out key facts about past mass school shootings. For example, he cites the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting to buttress his claim that, "Arming our teachers and training them how to use a firearm properly will translate to fewer heinous acts taking place." In fact, an armed guard twice exchanged fire with one of the two shooters but was unable to stop the shooting.
The Daily Caller's Guns and Gears section published an opinion piece that suggested "[b]ecause Black Democrats are fine for house work, but not for doing heavy lifting," white leaders should choose replacements for the current heads of civil rights organizations.
Guns and Gears is the firearms-themed section of the Daily Caller that publishes press releases and opinion pieces from the National Rifle Association and other gun organizations, along with commentary on firearms issues.
In his August 26 op-ed, retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry stereotyped African-Americans as violent, suggested that black teenagers must "follow the work rules laid down by white Americans" to achieve greater success, and accused the Obama administration of encouraging "racial violence."
Discussing the tragic killing of World War II veteran Shorty Belton by two African-American teens, Curry criticized African-American civil rights leaders for not "leading huge civil rights demonstrations protesting the murder of Mr. Belton and demanding that black parents, families, communities and churches get and keep their black teenagers under control." Notably, there is no evidence that Belton's killing was race-related.
Still, Curry wrote, "If America's black leadership isn't going to take charge of and clean up their own mess, white leaders will have to do it for them," and added, "You can't expect white Americans to keep looking the other way while black teenagers beat their fellow white Americans to death. Evidently black leaders seem to think it is alright for black teenagers to profile Shorty Belton and kill him and they need not comment on how wrong it is, but it's not right for a white policeman to profile someone black and kill them."
Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain failed to note Colorado voters' overwhelming support for the state's new gun background check law and instead provided a misleading generalization that "Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun-control laws."
In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law on March 20. The new laws expand background checks on gun sales, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and impose a $10 fee on background checks. State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) are facing a September 10 recall election over their support for the new measures.
The Chieftain's claim about the popularity of Colorado's new gun laws in the lead story for August 23 was based on a new Quinnipiac University poll that paradoxically found that the majority of voters oppose "the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado" by a 54 to 40 percent margin, but approve -- to varying degrees -- of the specific pieces of gun violence prevention legislation. The August 22 poll found that voters support requiring a background check on every gun sale by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about their opinion on the background check fee.
Unlike other major Colorado newspapers, the Chieftain reported on the general opposition to "the stricter new gun control laws" but failed to acknowledge support for the specific measures.
NRA News promoted an ad targeting Colorado Senate President John Morse, who is facing a recall election over his support for stronger gun laws, that baselessly suggested Morse used taxpayer money for haircuts and golf outings. The allegations in the ad stem from a 2011 ethics complaint filed against Morse that was unanimously dismissed by a bipartisan ethics panel, a fact the ad does not disclose.
The ad features Laura Carno, the founder of pro-recall group I Am Created Equal, claiming that Morse "charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing" while a graphic stated, "Tell John Morse Don't Golf And Get Haircuts On Our Dime." From the August 21 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, the media arm of the National Rifle Association:
CARNO: Senator Morse, the ethics investigation against you wasn't trivial. When you reimburse yourself with our money, it should be for work you do on our behalf. But Senator Morse, you charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing. We didn't elect you to be king, Senator Morse. Every dollar you spend comes out of our pockets. And Senator Morse we don't want to pay for your haircuts and golf games.
Tellingly the ad featured a quote from an April 12, 2011, Associated Press article, ignoring that the article was about the complaint being dismissed:
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre baselessly warned that proponents of stronger gun laws could implement a firearm "confiscation scheme" in his latest unhinged column for The Daily Caller.
Despite LaPierre's warnings of a draconian gun registration and confiscation scheme that he wrote "could happen to us if we fail to stand and fight," the plot LaPierre described is illegal under current federal law, has not been proposed by the supporters of stronger gun laws LaPierre singled out in his column, and would likely violate the United States Constitution.
LaPierre's column was published on August 19, the day before BuzzFeed reported that the NRA itself uses a variety of data collection methods to gather information on gun owners. In an article that described myriad ways the NRA collects data on gun owners, BuzzFeed contributor Steve Friess noted the tension between the NRA's warnings about government gun owner databases and the gun rights organization's own actions:
The National Rifle Association has rallied gun owners -- and raised tens of millions of dollars -- campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners.
But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country's largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby's secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy.
That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned.
LaPierre's Daily Caller column is demonstrative of the outlandish gun registration and confiscation plots the NRA warns of while apparently simultaneously collecting information on gun owners for its own purposes.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is well known for making inflammatory remarks during his performances, as evidenced by an infamous video from a 2007 concert where the machinegun-toting rocker called then-Sen. Barack Obama a "piece of shit" and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton a "worthless bitch."
Fan videos posted online from Nugent's "Black Power 2013" tour -- which he named as a way to pay "tribute to our black heroes nightly" -- indicate that Nugent has only ramped up his rhetoric, launching inflammatory attacks on President Obama and using violent imagery to describe his opposition to the federal government.
Among the lowlights, Nugent attacked the "lying racist in the White House," "criminal pieces of shit in the IRS," "dirty cocksuckers in the government," "the jack boot Nazi motherfuckers in the Department of Justice," "fucking retarded mongrels" who support animal rights, and "well-fed motherfucker food stamp cocksuckers." He also drew a comparison between the American Revolution and the present, stating, "When the British came to take our guns we met them at Concord Bridge and we blew their fucking brains out," and warned his audience, "keep a fucking gun in your hand, boys."
As a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the NRA. Nugent has had a longstanding relationship with the gun rights organization, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection. Nugent is also a fixture of the NRA's annual meeting, delivering talks in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the NRA for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent is also the author of a song, "I Am The NRA" that includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Despite his lengthy history of inflammatory comments, Nugent twice appeared on CNN to discuss gun violence prevention legislation proposed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. While previewing an interview with Nugent, CNN reporter Deb Feyerick said on the February 1 edition of Erin Burnett OutFront that Nugent has a "very firm grasp of the facts" about gun violence and "a very deep connection with the facts and the facts that he needs to make his argument." After airing the Nugent interview on February 4, host Erin Burnett and Feyerick treated Nugent's conspiracy theory that the Obama administration was planning to confiscate firearms as a credible argument. Notably Nugent botched an indisputable fact of the Sandy Hook massacre in a February 13 column for conspiracy website WND, where he claimed that the shooter did not use an assault weapon. Still, Nugent made an appearance on Erin Burnett OutFront on April 11 to again discuss gun violence prevention legislation, although no mention was made of his past inflammatory rhetoric or false claims about gun violence.
Below are 10 inflammatory moments from Nugent's "Black Power" tour:
The "ethics complaint" against Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron reported on by The Pueblo Chieftain and Colorado ABC affiliate KRDO was never accepted by the Colorado Secretary of State for review, as revealed in an open records request by a local government watchdog group.
Reacting to media coverage of the complaint -- which alleged that Giron's listing of her state email address on her campaign website constituted a violation of ethics rules -- Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro told Media Matters in an August 6 interview that the allegation was "extremely thin" before predicting that it would be "almost certainly dismissed as frivolous." Toro also questioned why the complaint did not appear on the Secretary of State website, noting that it is standard procedure for even a frivolous complaint to be posted and then referred for adjudication.
Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
According to emails obtained by CEW on August 15, an employee from the Secretary of State's Election Division responded to the ethics charge with instructions on how to file a campaign finance complaint. An internal email between Secretary of State employees indicated confusion over the complaint with one staffer emailing another, "Not sure if this is meant to be a campaign finance complaint under the $50 rule." This is likely because the complaintaint's allegation centered on Giron's conduct as a candidate meaning it would be properly characterized as a campaign finance violation rather than an ethics complaint.
[Colorado Ethics Watch, accessed 8/16/13, personal email address redacted]
A spokesperson for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the NRA-backed group behind an effort to recall two Colorado Democratic state senators over their votes for stronger gun laws, baselessly claimed on NRA News that the campaign of recall-targeted Senate President John Morse was plotting to commit "massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago."
Reacting to an August 12 court decision which will necessitate that the recall election be conducted with polling centers instead of solely through mail-in ballots, BFDF spokesperson Jennifer Kerns said the change could stymie what she described as a plot by Chicago-based groups hired by Morse's campaign to commit voter fraud by sending in fraudulent ballots from out of state. From the August 13 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News:
KERNS: The state of Colorado, in keeping with its crazy election year tradition, the state of Colorado passed a very controversial same day voter registration bill that completely changed the election laws in the state of Colorado and turned this election into an all mail ballot election.
Well we've been bracing ourselves for massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago. As you know, John Morse and his campaign, as they say follow the money in politics, he has hired -- even his own political consulting firms are from Chicago. They represent the Chicago Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, some of the hardest players in politics. So we've been bracing ourselves for an all mail-in ballot situation where you could potentially have ballots coming in from people out of the state.
Kerns added, "I think it's much harder for the Democrats to cheat if they have to do it in person. They have to spend their time and treasure busing people in to try to commit fraud."
The registration fraud scenario described by Kerns -- where out of district or state individuals would use Colorado's same day voter registration law to obtain mail-in ballots -- has circulated in state conservative media, but is in fact based on a misreading of Colorado's new election laws.
Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain is misrepresenting Colorado's new voting law in order to stoke fears that a recall election targeting Democratic State Sen. Angela Giron will be marred by fraud. The paper's editorial board falsely claimed that the new law would allow individuals who live outside of Giron's district to vote in the election "but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction."
Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Ballots in the election are to be mailed to voters beginning on August 19.
Claiming that "the Democrats who control the Colorado Legislature have passed a new voting law, one which literally invites fraud," the Chieftain editorial board distorted Colorado law to manufacture a voter registration fraud scenario:
Under the law passed this year, people need only to swear under penalty of perjury that they have lived in Colorado for at least 22 days and reside or plan to reside in the precinct or county where they wish to vote. Once they have done that, they are allowed to cast ballots.
The problem is, if there were groups from outside a jurisdiction who want to affect an election in that jurisdiction, they could vote under the conditions outlined in the new law, but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction.
The Chieftain's claim that voting is allowed by those who only profess an intention to move into the district is false. In fact, the new law allows an individual who has already moved into a district to vote immediately, so long as they attest to their intent to stay. Voting from outside of the district is not allowed. Furthermore, prior to the enactment of new voting laws Colorado already had a rarely used same day voter registration provision known as "emergency voting." As the Colorado Springs Independent explains: