Colorado Governor Waffles On Merits Of Gun Control Laws He Signed Last Year

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper speaks at the Time Warner Cable Arena during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 5, 2012. UPI/Mike Theiler

Democratic Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has managed to alienate just about everybody over the past week by reflecting on the State’s controversial gun control laws, which he signed in March of last year, with commentary that has ranged from remorseful to defiant. At the end of it all, he’s pleased almost no one and angered many — on both sides of the matter.

Knowing how unpopular the State’s new gun control laws were with most county sheriffs, Hickenlooper made a point of apologizing for the manner in which he and the Democratic-controlled State Legislature passed the laws last year. Several Colorado sheriffs have filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn the laws, which they believe limit the right to bear arms codified in the 2nd Amendment.

According to Denver-based KUSA News, Hickenlooper attempted an “awkward” apology on June 13, when he addressed a room full of county sheriffs gathered for their biennial meeting:

The governor apologized to the sheriffs for not meeting with them prior to the passage of gun control bills they opposed. Hickenlooper also said his administration didn’t do a good job anticipating pushback on gun control. Hickenlooper pledged better communication in the future.

According to the same report, HIckenlooper immediately demonstrated his idea of better communication by saying “What the f—? I apologized!” when Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith attempted to question him further.

That remark has put Hickenlooper on his heels, and he hasn’t responded in a way that clarifies his position — or that makes his apology resonate with sheriffs. He told another local TV station last week that he had no idea his remarks were being observed by news media, explaining to Fox 31 that “I tried to give them honest, unscripted, candid answers.”

Hickenlooper had reportedly told the sheriffs that he signed the laws only because one of his staffers had promised one bill’s sponsor that he would. But in his Fox 31 interview, he instead claimed that had nothing to do with it.

He also told the station that he never meant to imply (or plainly say) that the gun laws were bad or unenforceable, and that he’d enact them all over again if they crossed his desk.

“I didn’t say it’s unenforceable, I said it’s difficult to enforce,” he said. “A lot of laws are difficult to enforce; that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there. If we went through the process again, I’d sign it again.”

Smith addressed Hickenlooper’s “I didn’t know there were reporters” claim to his Facebook followers:

This meeting between the sheriffs and the governor was an open meeting attended by at least three press outlets (two from Aspen and one from Grand Junction.) This was known by the governor as I believe he spoke with a couple of those reporters. There were also news photographers in the room throughout his presentation- not something that you could miss.

However, the news of the governor’s “fumble” did not come from any reporter in the room. Their reports were quite bland and vague.

Social media, via Sheriff Spruell, turned out to be the reporter in the room this time. It was only after Sheriff Spruell’s viral posting and follow up posts by other sheriffs along with audio and video pieces later published to the web that this “fumble” came to the voters [sic] attention.

Now, the governor is in hot water, not only with his opponents on gun control, but also with his previous allies on the issue for blatant waffling and pandering.

Like it or hate it, we are seeing an information revolution that is changing the world as we know it. Information is power and the people have more power than ever.

Indeed, otherwise-supportive observers have openly questioned Hickenlooper’s perplexing lack of focus as he attempts damage control on both sides. The Daily Beast, which harbors no love for a plain reading of the 2nd Amendment, insinuated that Hickenlooper’s apparent bipolarity is a symptom of the unpopularity of gun control as an effective political platform:

How dire is the political situation for supporters of gun control?

Consider the case of Colorado, which saw two horrific mass shootings in the past 20 years, and in response, passed meaningful gun-control legislation last year.

But last week, Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who made those measures a centerpiece of his first term, backed swiftly away from them in a meeting with a group of county sheriffs.

…[P]erhaps another errant remark by Hickenlooper recorded at the meeting sums up the whole imbroglio best.

“If we had known that this was going to divide the state so intensely,” Hickenlooper said. “I think we would have thought about it twice.”

The passage of Colorado’s new gun laws sparked a grass-roots movement among angry conservative voters that ultimately led to the recall of two of the laws’ sponsors — State Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron — as well as the pre-emptive resignation of State Senator Evie Hudak.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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