Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Colorado recall

Colorado Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron were challenged in a recall election in Colorado yesterday.  Both of them lost.  The reason for the recall is that they voted for some controversial gun control measures in Colorado following the Newtown shooting and the Aurora movie theater shooting. This was the first time state legislators were recalled for the first time since Colorado adopted the procedure in 1912.

The controversial gun control laws that were passed in Colorado would expand background checks to guns purchased through private sales, effectively closing the gun show loophole, and would ban high capacity ammunition by limiting ammunition magazines to 15 bullets.  The recall organizer for Morse, Tom Knight, stated that Colorado voters were upset that Colorado's Democratic majority lead legislature was taking its cues from the White House rather than its constituents.  These controversial gun laws passed the state legislature without any Republican support.

According to Public Policy Polling, in a poll released April 23, 2013, 49% of people in Colorado support Congress passing stricter gun laws and only 44% of people in Colorado oppose Congress passing stricter gun laws.  While these laws were not named, most of the focus has been on passing laws that would close the gun show loophole or ban high capacity ammunition.  82% of Coloradan Democrats support stricter gun laws while 9% oppose it.  Independent Coloradans slightly oppose stricter gun laws as 46% of Independents support it while 49% of Independents oppose it.  But the real problem is that only 18% of Republican Coloradans support Congress passing stricter gun laws and 76% oppose Congress passing stricter gun laws. Obviously, we can't extrapolate state wide data into individual state districts but if the numbers hold up, the real problem is that the Democratic members of the legislature are not supporting the Republican members of the constituency.

Public Policy Polling did a poll in Colorado Senate District 3 where Angela Giron was recalled.  They did not initially release their poll to the public because they did not feel that the numbers were actually accurate.  It turns out they were, but let's take a look.  68% of voters in Colorado Senate District 3 support requiring background checks for ALL gun buyers and only 27% oppose.  Meanwhile, 47% of voters support limiting magazines to 15 bullets and 47% oppose limiting magazines.  Despite what you'd think, 54% of voters said that they would support recalling Giron and 42% oppose it.  Giron lost the recall election by 12%.  As you go through the cross tabs you see that 33% of Democrats supported the recall despite 79% of Democrats supporting background checks for all gun buyers and 62% of Democrats supporting limiting magazines.  59% of Independent voters support the recall, despite 74% supporting expanding background checks and 43% supporting limiting magazines.  84% of Republicans support the recall.  Not surprisingly.  44% of Republicans support background checks for all gun buyers and 25% support limiting magazines.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayors Against Illegal Guns led the charge to support both Giron and Morse.  Giron and Morse raised over $3 million in their efforts to fend off the recall.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) led the attack on the other side.  But they spent a fraction of the amount spending about $500,000 on calling, mailings, and door to door canvassing.

Somehow despite the voters being in favor of the gun control laws that were the whole reason of the recall election, they still managed to recall the State Senators that were, in part, responsible of the passage of the laws.  Why?  Why are people voting against their actual interests?

Here's an example of an advertisement that ran against Morse during the recall election. Notice.  There was no actual discussion of the laws that are prompting the recall or why you should want to recall Morse.  Basically.  The complaint that is brought up is really just a complaint about Michael Bloomberg.  Once you turn the election away from an actual issue then you can convince somebody that the election is about whatever you want it about.  The pro-recall effort focused on the idea that these Colorado legislators were taking their "marching orders" from East Coast Politicians (read: liberals) who want to ban everything.  What are they banning?  High capacity magazine firearms? The gun show loophole?  The strategy for the pro-recall group is to play on people's lack of knowledge and to make people make uninformed decisions.

The central message has changed away from the actual laws that have passed, which are popular, expansion of background checks and limiting high capacity ammunition and has focused instead on unpopular things Bloomberg has done.  All of a sudden, it seems, these Senators want to ban cigarettes or maybe Big Gulps.  That's not actually what the Senators have tried to do but I guess that doesn't matter.  Obviously, if you want the expansion of background checks or limiting magazines, you hate freedom.  Of course, the NRA supported the expansion of background checks, not too long ago.

The efforts of the NRA and other gun rights groups have led to a framing of the issue that Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other gun control groups should try to emulate.  The NRA does a very nice job of framing the issue, even if I think it is intellectually dishonest.  I doubt that it's their concern, at all.  

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