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Colorado Voters Recall Two Gun Control Backers


Another Colorado story now. Gun control advocates had hoped that last year's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado might move more Americans to call for stricter gun laws. Gun control measures ground down in the U.S. Congress but some states did pass legislation, including Colorado. Yet this past week, Colorado voters recalled two lawmakers who had backed the legislation.

The special election drew national attention and lots of donations from gun control advocates including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, in opposition, the National Rifle Association. Colorado Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron - both Democrats - lost Tuesday's recall vote. Senator Morse, who represents the 11th District in Colorado Springs area, joins us now in our studios. Thanks very much for being with us.

STATE SENATOR JOHN MORSE: Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And we should explain your district is one of the ones affected by the flooding.

MORSE: It absolutely is. We know it's not good but the city rallies around itself and does what it needs to do.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the recall, senator. What do you think happened?

MORSE: Well, I mean, we had a low voter turnout and a very narrow special interest group. And we didn't get as many votes as they did.

SIMON: What do you think the effect of outside contributions were - and I'll ask you to address your own first. Because the people who were in favor of your recall used the support from Mayor Bloomberg against you, I think it's fair to say.

MORSE: Well, I think they definitely tried to. I mean, I personally knocked on probably 2,000 doors and had well over 400 conversations at the door with voters and it didn't come up a single time. Mayor Bloomberg's money didn't come into that race until there were 35 days to go before the election. So, you know, obviously, we were accused of it right from the get-go, and I was sort of wishing that it had been true from the get-go so that we could spend more money sooner. Because as you well know, campaigns are very expensive and the sooner you get engaged, the better off you're likely to do. But in this case, it was money at the tail end.

SIMON: Do you think your support of greater gun control measures reflects public thinking in your district?

MORSE: I do. You know, I mean, 80 percent of the folks in my district support what we did and 20 percent don't. And, unfortunately, that 80 percent, or even a big enough chunk of it, didn't show up in a special election without mail-in ballots to cast their votes. And so it had a huge impact. I mean, it was the key really to the race.

SIMON: You're a former police chief.

MORSE: I am.

SIMON: How has that affected your feelings about gun registration and gun control?

MORSE: Well, you know, I mean, I'm also a former paramedic, so I have treated lots and lots of gunshot victims and I have investigated lots and lots of gunshot victims, including homicides, obviously. So, it has a profound effect. I mean, I understand what we're really talking about in the literal sense. I've been shot at. I get the trauma of all that. This isn't an academic exercise for me.

SIMON: And that leads you to conclude what about guns?

MORSE: Well, they are extraordinarily dangerous implements, and they have their place and they're effective tools for what they're designed for. But right now we've got very powerful weapons with lots of capacity on our streets that frankly don't belong on our streets or in our forests. You know, defending yourself from somebody breaking into your home is one thing, but you don't need a long rifle with 30 rounds attached to it to do that. So, you know, certainly some other kind of handgun will defend you just fine from somebody breaking into your house, but those other weapons are really meant only to be on the offensive and not just on the defensive. And so, you know, we ought to do everything we can to make sure that we keep guns out of the hands of those that are criminally intent and those that are mentally ill, violently mentally ill.

SIMON: Senator Morse, what implications do you see in what happened to recall you?

MORSE: Well, I think it's important to remember that this is really purely symbolic. The Democrats still maintain control of the Senate in Colorado. Obviously, we still have the House. These laws remain in place. So, really we just have the NRA attempting to send a message here. And I'm personally not listening.

SIMON: Colorado Senate President - for the moment - John Morse joining us in our studios. Thanks very much, senator.

MORSE: You're welcome. Thank you again for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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