UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper seeks to clarify his remarks today, FOX 31's Eli Stokols:
In his first interview on the subject, Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver that he wasn’t aware he was being filmed last Friday during a meeting with the sheriffs in Aspen when he appeared to backpedal on the magazine ban, agreeing with one sheriff that it was unenforceable and telling the group that he didn’t expect the legislation to even make it to his desk.
The remarks, he said Friday, were an effort to apologize to sheriffs who felt their voices weren’t heard during last year’s legislative process, not a disavowal of the magazine ban itself.
“I didn’t say it’s unenforceable, I said it’s difficult to enforce,” Hickenlooper 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.” [Pols emphasis]
…A week after the meeting with the sheriffs, the governor explained that he and his staff made the decision last year to sign House Bill 1224, which bans magazines of more than 15 rounds, more than a month before the legislation reached his desk; and he said that he wouldn’t have allowed the senate to vote on the controversial measure — three Democratic senators who supported the ban were ousted from office last fall as part of a recall effort in response to the gun bills — if he were considering a veto.
The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee has been eagerly running down every conceivable angle on the lingering story of Gov. John Hickenlooper's ill-fated attempt to appease Colorado county sheriffs at a meeting last week. Today, Lee reports on the response on MSNBC last night by former Senate President John Morse, who narrowly lost a recall election last year after the passage of gun safety legislation:
Former Democratic Senate President John Morse said the comments Gov. John Hickenlooper made recently about his support of gun-control laws from 2013 is “disrespecting the families of the victims that worked so hard to pass this legislation.”
Morse supported a wide-ranging package of Democratic gun-control measures that became law last year. His backing of those bills, which include limits on ammunition magazines and universal background checks on all firearms sales and transfers, led to his ouster in a recall election last September…
Morse, in an interview with MSNBC, said the gun-control laws “did not divide the state,” and cites polls that show a majority of Coloradans back the law that requires universal gun background checks.
There is perhaps no one out there more deservedly angry with Gov. Hickenlooper over his foolish backpedaling of the 2013 magazine limit law than Sen. Morse. Morse laid everything on the line to get these bills passed, and having lost his seat by the narrowest of margins in last year's recalls, he can hold his head high–and obviously, Morse has a legacy interest in defending these laws. For John Morse, passing the 2013 gun safety bills was a goal worth the loss of his seat, and Hickenlooper's thoughtless pandering to the sheriffs is a huge slap in the face.
Like we said yesterday about this story, the real potential for political damage to Hickenlooper is limited: by the time that has passed since passage of these bills, voter fatigue with the issue of gun control, and the weakness of any potential opponent who may emerge from next Tuesday's GOP primary. But it definitely doesn't help Democratic legislators who are defending their records with voters for Hickenlooper to undercut them like this, and to have done so just to have a more pleasant meeting with county sheriffs who will never support him is simply not justifiable.
At this point, as Lee's continued interest in this story shows, Hickenlooper's silence in response to media requests for clarification of what he said to the county sheriffs is doing disproportionate harm. Hickenlooper needs to get all of his staff into a huddle–and after apologizing for pointlessly throwing at least one of them under the wheels, he needs to make sure everyone is saying the same thing. Then he needs to call reporters and tell them what that is. Maybe he claims stagefright, or altitude sickness, it doesn't matter–the biggest priority is that he stops contradicting himself and fellow Democrats.
And then, after he has taken his lumps and walked this back as best he can, he can shut the hell up for awhile.