Colorado’s Sec­ond Amend­ment wild­fire

Bloomberg’s anti-gun cam­paign back­fires on the Rocky Moun­tain Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By David A. Keene

Last year, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shoot­ings in Con­necti­cut, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and then-New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg worked to put to­gether a “coali­tion of the will­ing” to join them in a war on the Sec­ond Amend­ment and hit upon Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper as a likely re­cruit.

Mr. Hick­en­looper, a low-key lib­eral who went from suc­cess­ful sa­loon de­vel­oper to the Den­ver mayor’s of­fice, was elected gov­er­nor as part of a con­certed ef­fort by lib­eral billionaires to take over a Western state. In 2010, they not only made Mr. Hick­en­looper gov­er­nor, but they elected “pro­gres­sive” ma­jori­ties to both houses of the state leg­is­la­ture. Democrats around the coun­try cel­e­brated the vic­to­ries and vowed to use the same strat­egy to change the pol­i­tics of neigh­bor­ing states.

So when Pres­i­dent Obama and his trusty side­kick, Joe Bi­den, be­gan look­ing for al­lies in the moun­tains, it didn’t take long for them to tar­get Colorado. Mr. Hick­en­looper is known nei­ther for his po­lit­i­cal per­spi­cac­ity nor courage, so Mr. Bi­den got on the phone, twisted his arm, ca­joled him and per­haps sug­gested that a grand fu­ture awaited if he would join the coali­tion. No one knows whether it was the ca­jol­ing or the arm-twist­ing, but the Colorado gov­er­nor signed on and be­gan tak­ing calls from New York’s mayor and work­ing with pro­gres­sives in the leg­is­la­ture to craft leg­is­la­tion in­cor­po­rat­ing just the sort of “common-sense” firearms re­stric­tions the pres­i­dent and mayor wanted.

As the Hick­en­looper-Obama-Bloomberg “re­forms” worked their way through the Colorado leg­is­la­ture, I headed for Den­ver to urge the gov­er­nor to avoid po­lit­i­cal sui­cide by lis­ten­ing not just to folks from Wash­ing­ton and New York, but to the peo­ple of his own state. Mr. Hick­en­looper, a nice enough fel­low per­son­ally, was happy to get to­gether, but the press knew I was there as the pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and bom­barded me with ques­tions as I ap­proached his of­fice.

I told the gov­er­nor when we sat down that the re­porters out­side his of­fice wanted to know just why I was meet­ing with him and what I was go­ing to tell him. He asked what I had told them and I an­swered, “I said I was here be­cause you are not An­drew Cuomo,” the New York gov­er­nor who had just forced an in­cred­i­bly dra­co­nian anti-gun bill through his leg­is­la­ture, “and that I in­tended to urge you not to be­come An­drew Cuomo.”

It was a pleas­ant enough meet­ing, but it was clear as I left his of­fice that the gov­er­nor had made up his mind. A few days later, the Colorado leg­is­la­ture passed and he signed a gun-con­trol pack­age that ig­nited a po­lit­i­cal wild­fire in the state.

First, a majority of Colorado’s sher­iffs an­nounced they wouldn’t en­force the new law, and vot­ers be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing re­call pe­ti­tions aimed at re­mov­ing the Demo­cratic leader of the Colorado Se­nate and other law­mak­ers in­stru­men­tal in pass­ing the mea­sure. They claimed that Mr. Hick­en­looper was in con­tact with and co­or­di­nat­ing his ac­tiv­i­ties with Mr. Bloomberg, a charge he de­nied at the time. Later, he was forced to ad­mit that he had, in fact, talked ex­ten­sively with the mayor as the “re­forms” were

de­vel­oped and shep­herded through the Demo­cratic state leg­is­la­ture.

I saw the gov­er­nor again just be­fore the re­call elec­tions that turned Colorado pol­i­tics up­side down. It was in Mil­wau­kee at a na­tional gover­nors’ con­fer­ence. I heard some­one call my name, turned around and dis­cov­ered it was Mr. Hick­en­looper. I went over to say hello, and he sug­gested we have a beer. We were in Mil­wau­kee, so the sug­ges­tion seemed rea­son­able. As we chat­ted, he raised his glass, smiled and said, “It was a rough spring, Dave, but it looks like we both sur­vived.” I smiled in re­turn, think­ing of the wild­fire still rag­ing on the ground in Colorado, and replied, “So far, John, so far.”

He seemed obliv­i­ous to what was about to hap­pen. The re­call elec­tions did in­deed turn Colorado’s pol­i­tics on its head. Repub­li­cans, Democrats and in­de­pen­dents rose up as one in two dis­tricts and re­called legislators who had been key back­ers of the gov­er­nor’s re­form pack­age. A ma­jor firearms in­dus­try man­u­fac­turer an­nounced it was leav­ing the state, and politi­cians who had thought that both Mr. Hick­en­looper and the state’s U.S. se­na­tor, Mark Udall, were shoo-ins for re-elec­tion this fall be­gan to have their doubts.

Cory Gard­ner, a popular Repub­li­can con­gress­man who had pre­vi­ously dis­missed the idea of chal­leng­ing Mr. Udall, changed his mind, and a for­mer con­gress­man was re­cruited to take on Mr. Hick­en­looper him­self. Democrats in Colorado and Wash­ing­ton at first thought, like Mr. Hick­en­looper, that the wild­fire had burned out and they were safe.

They were wrong. The wild­fire the gov­er­nor started with help from Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg is still burn­ing, hot­ter than ever. Re­cently, polling data be­gan show­ing that the Repub­li­can can­di­dates for both of­fices were be­gin­ning to pull ahead. A Quin­nip­iac Poll, in fact, showed the gov­er­nor trail­ing his Repub­li­can chal­lenger by as many as 10 points.

It hasn’t helped that Mr. Bloomberg, in dis­miss­ing the at­ti­tude of Colorado’s vot­ers, said of the re­call elec­tions in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, “I don’t think there’s roads” in those places.

It’s per­haps too early to con­clude that Mr. Hick­en­looper and Mr. Udall will be turned out in Novem­ber, but I’d be will­ing to bet they will be. If they are, the gov­er­nor will have paid the price for em­u­lat­ing a New York gov­er­nor in a state just about as far away from Man­hat­tan as one can get.

David A. Keene is opin­ion ed­i­tor of The Wash­ing­ton Times.


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