United We Stand; Divided, Not So Much…

In 2013, the progressive Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly introduced and passed several controversial gun control bills over the strenuous objections of Republican lawmakers and thousands of citizens who attended hearings and communicated with legislators regarding their opposition to the proposed laws.

Throughout the process last year, it was my observation that the opponents of the gun control laws far outnumbered the supporters, were better organized and more vocal in their opposition.  This year, through several hearings in which Republican-sponsored bills were heard, it was clear that the gun control supporters outnumbered the gun rights supporters and were better organized and trained in how to testify.

I think part of the reason why many pro-2A citizens stayed away this year is the sense that taking the time away from work and traveling to Denver to attend hearings was an exercise in futility.  I certainly thought so consequently I attended only one hearing and listened to the others online and read online publications and Twitter.  I felt that the bills I favored (the Constitutional carry bill, the repeal of the magazine ban and the bill to allow concealed carry by teachers and administrators) had no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled legislature, and subsequent events – all of the bills were killed in committee on a party-line vote – vindicated my judgment.

Many of the same witnesses supporting the gun control laws last year were again present this year.  Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson was the lone law enforcement voice in favor of gun control; the CBI director, apparently reporting incorrect numbers; Don Macalady, the “hunter” who is all in favor of gun control; the Colorado Ceasefire folks were there (I recognized some of them as “stalkers” from when I helped with the Recall Hudak Too campaign) in addition to the usual crime victims who shared their stories. 

The power of the gun control supporters was buttressed by a big new kid on the block – Stand Strong Colorado (SSC).

Banner from Stand Strong Colorado website

This group is apparently an alliance of four other groups:  Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America (MDA), Colorado Ceasefire (CC) and Hunters Against Gun Violence (HAGV).  As everyone knows, MAIG and MDA are Michael Bloomberg-sponsored organizations, so SSC is at least a 50% owned Bloomberg proxy.  The other two, as far as I can tell, are homegrown, small groups that consist mostly of crime victims and survivors and “hunters” who favor gun control. 

Based on the ownership, professionalism and quality of the social media presence shown by SSC, I am sure that they have substantial funds at their disposal. 

This group also sponsored a training session on how to testify before committees prior to the beginning of the hearings on the GOP-sponsored bills.  The speakers who showed up to testify in favor of retaining these unenforceable, ineffective and unconstitutional laws were well rehearsed and very consistent in their talking points.  I had thought about attending one of their training sessions to gain “intel” on the opposition, but did not think I was a good enough actor to pull it off.

By contrast the Second Amendment supporters were outnumbered and out-talked.  It seemed to me that many of the pro-2A people were sitting this one out, perhaps in anticipation of the 2014 elections and the likelihood of control of the General Assembly changing hands. (More on that later).  I hope that was the case.  In any event, it seems to me that the pro-2A citizens and groups in our state are not as well organized and led as our opponents are.  As everyone knows, Michael Bloomberg is a very wealthy, recently unemployed individual who is determined to eradicate private gun ownership in America.  As everyone should know, there are also wealthy individuals in Colorado who are determined to remake the state in their image.  I’m sure that they have a stake in SSC as well.

It’s my belief that many observers expect the Republican party will regain control of the General Assembly in November because of repudiation of the 2013 gun control laws, Governor Hickenlooper’s controversial decisions on several issues, and the natural cyclical nature of politics.  I certainly hope this proves to be true.  But I don’t think it is a given.  Several things have to happen for this to take place.

First, the GOP needs to find a way to reassure moderates and independents – the biggest voting bloc in Colorado – that they won’t go off the deep end on social issues if they are entrusted with power.  Rolling back the gains that LGBT people have made on their causes and threatening to restrict or outlaw abortion is going to lose the GOP more votes than they gain.  As I have written elsewhere (and prominent national Republicans are starting to say), the GOP needs to back off on the social issues and focus on the important issues facing this country.

Second, the pro-Second Amendment groups in our state need to combine their efforts similar to what SSC has done.  We have the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group (of which I am a member), the newly formed Colorado Second Amendment Association (of which I am a founding member), the NRA (again, I am a member), and maybe some others.  However, unlike SSC with its sugar-daddy Bloomberg, our side has no wealthy benefactors, no over-arching organization, nobody to take the lead and coordinate our efforts in the legislature, the media, social media and other outreach. 

Third, the libertarians and the GOP need to find some common ground and work together.  Otherwise, third party votes will continue to throw elections to Democrats.  As one observer wrote after the November 2013 elections: 

4. Vote Libertarian, get bigger government.  Conservatives got the lesson that liberals got in 2000.  While a dissenting vote for a third party has a certain narcissistic appeal, in America’s winner-take-all system, it is effectively a vote for the candidate you like least.  Terry McAuliffe did not win a majority in Virginia, but a win is a win, and the Libertarian vote made the difference several times over.  If the intent was to send a message to Republicans, the effect was to remind the voters of the importance of party unity.  [Emphasis mine]  

I think that there are more points of agreement between Republicans and independents/libertarians than points of disagreement – with those being the social issues I alluded to earlier.  We really need to find a way to work through these differences, or the progressives/liberals/Democrats will continue to win elections and the country will continue on its ruinous path.

Fourth, our opponents are highly motivated and well-funded.  The progressive machine in this state is not going away, and the wealthy individuals who engineered the “blueing” of Colorado remain active.  I don’t know that libertarians/conservatives have formed any organizations with similar voter databases and tactics like ProgressNow Colorado, but I am deeply concerned that the GOP may not have equivalent money, resources and tactics to counterbalance the Democratic/progressive infrastructure.  Groups such as AFP Colorado and Compass Colorado may be steps in that direction, but I don’t know how effective they will be.

While I am mostly concerned about the continued attack on our Second Amendment rights both here in Colorado and nationally, I am also concerned about the direction the country is going in.  I am not alone.  In January Gallup reported that 77% of Americans are dissatisfied with how things are going in the United States.  In December 2013 it was reported that 72% say that big government is the biggest threat our country faces at this time.  I truly believe that our country is at a crossroads similar to the one faced in the mid-19th century.  It is my hope that freedom and liberty will prevail over “progressive” ideas of “social justice”.

 

By Richard D. Turnquist

March 7, 2014

 

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