Voters in Colorado have ejected two state lawmakers from office, including the president of the State Senate, as punishment for supporting gun-control measures passed in the wake of mass shootings in America last year including the killing of 12 people in a cinema in Aurora close to Denver.
The removal of the two Democrats was hailed as a signal victory for the gun-owners lobby not just in Colorado but across America and will doubtless serve as a warning to incumbents everywhere that following President Barack Obama down the path to new gun controls will open them to peril.
It will also be seen as a repudiation of deep-pocket advocates of tighter gun controls who attempted to blunt the recall effort. Of the roughly $3.5 million that flowed in as campaign contributions, the vast majority – about $3 million – came from the gun control lobby. On the other side, the recall effort was supported by the National Rifle Association but seems to have been driven more by grass-roots fervour.
Most notably the result will disappoint the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, who wrote a personal cheque of $350,000. Ousted on Tuesday were Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron, who supported laws to restrict the size of bullet magazines and tighten background checks for private guns sales signed by Governor John Hickenlooper earlier this year.
A recall election allows voters to remove office-holders before their terms are up. They have theoretically been allowed in Colorado since 1912 but this is the first time such a campaign has successfully been used. Mr Morse said he had no regrets, however.
“I said at the time if it costs me my political career, so be it,” he said after conceding. “That’s nothing compared to what the families of (gun violence) victims go through every single day. We did the right thing.” Bernie Herpin, a Republican who narrowly beat Morse for his Colorado Springs seat, said he had won partly because interference by gun-control supporters from outside the state had backfired.
“In Colorado, we don’t need some New York billionaire telling us what size soft drinks we can have, how much salt to put on our food, or the size of the ammunition magazines on our guns,” he said.