When Colorado Democrats called a news conference to lay out their four-pronged gun-safety legislative package — which notably did not include a ban on so-called assault weapons (more on that later) — the only surprise came when a fire alarm twice interrupted the presentation.
Was it a system malfunction? That’s the official and probably most likely explanation.
Was it meant as a message from the gun-rights community? That’s the conspiracy explanation, which, I guess, could be true. I mean, I definitely wouldn’t put a fake alarm past the noxious Rocky Mountain Gun Owners team.
Or could it be interpreted as a serendipitous wake-up call? Maybe. But if it was — and if it’s Republicans who need awakening on this issue, which they do — the alarms clearly had no impact.
With overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature and with the governor’s support for all four bills, there’s no question that they’ll be passed into law. Just as there was no question that Republicans, meanwhile, would promise to do whatever they could to make the bills’ journey as difficult as possible.
Once upon a time, they could have. You may remember 2013 and the recalls. Now, though, it will be an exercise in futility — you may also remember Colorado Republicans made the same mistake last year when the legislature went about codifying abortion rights — but it’s more than that.
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It tells us — once again — just how out of touch the Republican Party is in Colorado with the voters and how far they are from making any kind of electoral comeback in the state.
All it takes to understand the situation is an ability to read polls.
Coloradans overwhelmingly favor tougher gun-safety laws. In this package, one bill toughens the red flag law by expanding those eligible to initiate an extreme risk protection order to include teachers, health care providers and district attorneys. Another would make it easier to sue gun manufacturers and sellers, who now enjoy special protection from lawsuits. Another would raise the age of buying or possessing a rifle or a shotgun — with obvious exceptions for military, police and, of course, hunters — to 21, the same age required for handguns. And one would require a three-day waiting period between purchasing a gun and taking possession of it.
It’s not that we shouldn’t expect Republicans to oppose gun laws. It’s what they do. It’s a key part of their national platform, or was, at least, back when national Republicans had platforms. But by turning the noise up to 11, the Colorado GOP will simply reinforce the fact that most voters don’t agree with them.
And if the noise goes up to 11 over the next few weeks, what happens when/if Democrats do introduce a bill to ban the sale of certain assault-style weapons later in the session? The reason Democrats are hesitating is not because of polls, although a ban on sales would be a tough vote for many Democrats in the legislature. There’s no bill yet because the proposed bill’s backers haven’t found a formula to which Gov. Jared Polis will agree.
But look, we saw what happened to Republicans in Colorado in last November’s midterms — a monumental, historically humiliating defeat, one that basically removed any doubt that Colorado is now a bright blue state. As I may have mentioned before, the only purple left in the state is the purple mountain majesties.
And among the reasons that the expected national red wave didn’t happen is that most Americans — and certainly most Coloradans — opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade and believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Again, it’s not as if Republicans don’t have a fixed abortion stance. But the louder the noise, particularly after having just won Roe v. Wade, the more the state GOP reminds voters that on this critical issue, they were, once again, on the wrong side.
If it were just guns and abortion — both longtime GOP rallying points — that would be one thing. It’s not just one thing or two. It’s closer to, uh, everything. And yet, for the six candidates running to be new chair of the Colorado GOP, the lesson of the 2020 and 2022 wipeout elections is that there was no lesson.
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After one relatively moderate candidate dropped out, that left the field in the race for GOP chair entirely to Trumpists and election deniers. As (once) influential GOP operative and former GOP state chair Dick Wadhams put it to Colorado Politics, “All six of these candidates are disasters, every one of them. It’s just going to be a wasteland at the Colorado Republican Party for the next two years.”
How bad can a wasteland get? More from Wadhams: “They all believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and they all want to go back to election day balloting, to get rid of mail elections. It defines the party as crazy right up front, and that’s what a lot of these unaffiliateds think about Republicans anyway.”
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Speaking of unaffiliated voters, all six GOP state chair candidates — and, yes, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is among them, although, as far as I know, the only one currently indicted for violating election law — want to change the party rules so that Colorado’s unaffiliated voters, who make up nearly half the electorate, can no longer participate in GOP primaries.
It’s no wonder the party is in such bad shape. It’s no wonder that in the last election, Polis won the governor’s race by 19 points, Sen. Michael Bennet by 15 and Democrats won every statewide office. At this point, you’d think the Colorado GOP could hear nothing but alarm bells ringing.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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