The Denver Post's opinion board released their list of winners and losers of the 2013 Colorado legislative session late Thursday. Without getting too far into the weeds criticizing yet another bizarrely skewed perspective on this year's legislative session, in which apparently recording devices only worked when Democrats said something stupid–we've already promised a more comprehensive look at this in a forthcoming write-up–we do have a few words to add to one of the Post's declared "winners," Dave Kopel of the conservative Independence Institute.
David Kopel. This Independence Institute researcher and University of Denver law professor emerged as gun rights supporters' go-to guy for Second Amendment information and technical knowledge on guns.
It's true that Kopel's profile was higher than ever during the reinvigorated post-Newtown debate over gun safety legislation, testifying both in the Colorado legislature and in Washington, D.C. and providing "expert" backup for Republicans unsuccessfully (in Colorado, anyway) trying to stop the bills from passing. In terms of sheer increased exposure, sure, he's a winner. But only if you don't pay attention to the results of the gun safety fight in Colorado–or what he and the organization for which he serves as "research director" actually said.
The now-defunct Colorado Media Matters cataloged a long list of factually questionable and/or extreme statements from Kopel during their two years of operation–yet another reason we wish they were still around. In addition to calling the University of Colorado a "haven for killers, especially mass killers" for prohibiting guns on campus, this is the same Dave Kopel who called Michael Schiavo, husband of nationally known brain-dead patient Terri Schiavo, a "scumbag" who "suddenly remember[ed]" that Terri Schiavo "always wanted to die of dehydration."
Chuckle with us at Kopel's 2008 praise for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:
KOPEL: And this, but this gets back to why Palin was such a brilliant choice for [McCain]…
And to think, Dick Morris gets so much grief for predicting Mitt Romney would win last year. Is there anybody who still thinks Palin was a "brilliant choice" for the Republican ticket in 2008?
After the mass shooting at Newtown, Connecticut last year, Kopel falsely claimed that national gun control proponents support a "lifetime ban on gun possession for anyone who has ever been arrested for a drug offense–even if that person was later found innocent." Kopel has repeatedly said that the Connecticut legislature was "culpable" in the Newtown massacre because of the prohibition of weapons on school campuses there. Kopel said that the failed federal legislation to partially close the so-called "background check loophole" would "turn almost every gun owner into a felon." In a February panel in Denver, Kopel said of limiting magazine capacity:
If misuses are the common argument for banning these magazines, then all guns should be banned.
Correct us if we're wrong, but it's not a "misuse" to load a 30-round magazine with 30 rounds, is it?
During the gun safety debate in Colorado, it's true that Kopel got as many or even more quotes in press coverage than anyone who was not an actual elected official. But in terms of factuality? If that's the standard, Kopel was no winner. For example, Kopel was an early adopter of the nonsensical charge that "any magazine with a removable baseplate" would be banned under House Bill 1224. As we have stated and restated, the bill's plain language only bans magazines that are "designed to be readily converted," which is a far narrower and more reasonable definition than opponents hysterically seem to think. Kopel even claimed that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rhonda Fields, intended for the bill to ban magazines "with a removable baseplate." That's just BS–a 9NEWS interview with Rep. Fields makes clear she hadn't even considered "removable baseplates," for good or ill.
When Kopel's boss Jon Caldara ridiculously claimed in a viral video that "guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again," where was Kopel, supposed paragon of truthiness in the gun debate? Nowhere to be found, of course.
Regardless of the hysterics before passage, the enforcement guidelines for House Bill 1224 are due soon from the state Department of Public Safety–and we'll either owe Kopel and Caldara an apology as a disastrous "unintended consequence" becomes undeniable, or (much more likely) Kopel and Caldara will have some mea culpas of their own to make. Given that many other states have limited magazine capacity, and amazingly, people can still get magazines for their guns in those states, it seems to us that these guys were always going to have to explain the gap between hysterical predictions and a much less controversial reality.
Bottom line: in time, the record will show that Dave Kopel was not a "winner." In Colorado, he didn't stop the bills he opposed from passing, nor did he contribute factually to the debate. He became the "go-to guy" for opponents because he was willing to lend his "credibility" to falsehoods. And that is not something we think should be rewarded.