Gun Rights Organizations Launch Recall Effort

PHOTO: An attendee looks through the scope of a Remington gun during the 2013 National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meetings & Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, May 4, 2013.

Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Opponents of gun control measures successfully prevented Congress from strengthening federal gun laws earlier this year, and now they're sending a message to states -- Don't try this at home.

Colorado is the current target. The state recently passed stricter gun control measures. Now, the president of the Senate there might lose his job for championing that effort.

Democrat John Morse, a former police chief, faces a recall attempt because he successfully advocated a series of laws that ban the sale of high-capacity magazines and require universal background checks.

A recall election could happen as early as August or September, and that could have serious implications.

Other states might decline to take up the issue, even where there is public support, because elected officials fear backlash from a vocal but powerful few (read: the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm).

The recall will signal what gun-rights advocates like the NRA want to drive home: You don't pass gun control measures without consequences.

That might sound like an empty threat when a bill passes with public support, but it's not.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, even though public opinion seemed to favor stricter laws following last year's movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and new restrictions passed the Legislature, NRA-backed Republicans have mobilized and successfully launched a recall effort, gathering enough signatures to make the recall a reality.

How does that happen?

Gun rights organizations are simply more organized and better funded than gun control advocates. There might be more people than not in favor of the new laws, but that doesn't do any good if their proponents can't mobilize voters.

As Fusion noted back in December, the NRA accounts for about 60 percent of what gun rights interest groups spent on lobbying in 2011 and the first part of 2012. The organization's lobbying arm spent more than 10 times what all gun control interest groups combined have spent in 2011 and the first part of 2012. And while gun rights groups contributed $3 million to political candidates -- 96 percent of them Republicans -- between January and October 2012, gun control groups contributed just $4,000 to Democrats for the same period.

National organizations that favor stricter gun laws have also remained relatively quiet. That's not new, though. Politicians who might favor stricter laws have long been reluctant to say so for fear of backlash from constituents and powerful lobbying efforts from organizations like the NRA.

Even President Obama, after the July 2012 Aurora shooting, said during a presidential debate that the country needs to "enforce the laws we've already got."

It took a massacre five months later at Sandy Hook Elementary School for him to really champion new gun control efforts.

That attempt failed, in part due to anti-gun control lobbying efforts, even though support for stricter gun control was at a 10-year high.

The recall in Colorado is the first against a state legislator since the state adopted the procedure more than a century ago. It's unclear what the outcome might be, but Morse's opponents are out in force.

"If you can take out the Senate president in Colorado, then, arguably, you can take out any legislator anywhere in the country," Morse told the Times, adding: "I do think it would have a chilling effect."

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