Caption This Photo: “Dr. Chaps” Flings BS (Literally)

This weekend, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt participated in the El Paso County Republican Party Cowpie Throwing Contest at the El Paso County Fair. Unfortunately, El Paso County’s most (in)famous state representative did not win this prestigious competition, reportedly on account of his chunk of manure disintegrating in mid-flight–but his mere participation was enough to give the world a truly memorable image.

chapsflingsbs

Fling it, “Dr. Chaps.” Fling that cowpie to the sky.

Rep. Klingenschmitt: Homosexuals “Want To Rule You”

Colorado’s most famous (or infamous) sitting member of the state legislature, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, uploaded a new episode of his Pray in Jesus’ Name Youtube “ministry” program today. Since taking office in January and for some time before, Klingenschmitt’s broadcasts have done a great deal to putrefy the Republican brand in Colorado, as well as make him a national symbol of the general intolerance and cluelessness of the contemporary religious right. Klingenschmitt was even punished by fellow Republicans after he claimed the horrific attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last March was “God’s curse upon America,” though he was quietly reinstated to the committee assignment he lost just a couple of weeks later.

In today’s episode (clip posted above), Rep. Klingenschmitt launched into an unusually forceful tirade about the rights of gays and lesbians to participate in society, and what that means for “the Christian audience.” Transcribed:

KLINGENSCHMITT: And there has been this branding, this idea that oh, you know homosexual marriage and that movement is all about love. No. There’s a spirit of lust inside some people who are confused about their sexuality and they just lust, and they crave flesh, and it’s not selfless sacrifice or loving your neighbor, you can do that. A man can visit another man in the hospital and show them genuine compassion without lusting for them sexually. So it’s not the same as love.

It’s also not about equality. Oh, they say, oh, we just want equal rights. You already have the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex. Everyone in this country already had for decades, for generations, the right to marry somebody of the opposite sex if they want to. And just because you don’t sexually prefer, doesn’t mean that you have now a legal right to marry someone of the same sex. That’s not a right, because rights come from God.

Finally, it is, if it’s not about love, it’s not about equality, what is it about? It’s about power. And, and when they push their agenda for the right to reeducate your children in their image, for the right to, uh, recruit or adopt, because they can’t have their own children they want the right to remake society in their own image, and force you to either shut up or shut down. And that’s why they’re trying to pass these ordnances against bakers and photographers and florists, to force you the Christian audience, or force Christian universities to endorse their sin or lose your tax exempt status as we talked about in the previous story. This is about power. They want to rule you. And we need to stand up against that and we need to disobey.

So, there’s plenty to ping the outrage meter with here–but if we had to pick, we’d say that somewhere between declaring that gays don’t experience “the same thing as love” and how they want to “recruit or adopt” the children of straight America, “Dr. Chaps” is burying the needle. Again.

We’ll ask again: how is it not news every time an incumbent Republican lawmaker says these things? He shouldn’t draw a pass in the media on account of frequency. We shouldn’t assume he’s offending his fellow Republicans too. He should be called out loudly, by friend and foe, every time.

Shouldn’t he?

Janet Buckner To Succeed Late Husband In Colorado House

The late Rep. John Buckner and Janet Buckner.

The late Rep. John Buckner and Janet Buckner.

As noted by the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels:

Soon after Rep. John Buckner died, friends talked about his widow, Janet Buckner, taking his seat in the Colorado House. On Wednesday, she made it official.

Janet Buckner is seeking to be appointed to fill the vacancy in House District 40, which her husband has represented since 2013. The vacancy committee will meet on June 25.

From Janet Buckner’s statement yesterday:

“We are so thankful for the outpouring of love and support over the last few weeks – from John’s family, friends, colleagues, former students, and the community as a whole. Your support has meant so much to our family during this difficult time.

“My husband John was a true public servant. He spent his entire life helping others – his passion for policies that advance education and equity for all people guided his every decision. As his wife and life partner for 45 years, I know how deeply he cared about these issues, and how hard he worked every day to improve the lives of people in our community.

“House District 40 has lost an unparalleled leader and advocate, and I am committed to carrying on John’s legacy of making sure every child has access to a quality education and the opportunity to succeed. I am dedicated to honoring my husband and fulfilling the trust that the people of Aurora have put in him to work on their behalf. John and I moved to Aurora in 1975 — we raised our family here, and became part of the community. I hope to continue to give back to our community in Aurora and to have the honor of serving House District 40 at the legislature.”

Bartels reports that although some other Democrats had expressed preliminary interest in being appointed to HD-40, everyone was on hold to see what Mrs. Buckner would decide. Now that she has decided to seek Rep. John Buckner’s House seat, we expect she’ll encounter little or no opposition. HD-40 is best described as a safe-ish Democratic seat, taken by Buckner in 2012 from former Rep. Cindy Acree. In 2014, Rep. Bucker held the seat against Republican JulieMarie Shepherd by about two thousand votes, a larger margin than the total votes cast for the Libertarian also running there.

All told, a happy ending to a sad story from the end of this year’s legislative session.

#COleg 2015: Women Stepped Up

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As we looked over this year’s Legislative Scorecard, we noticed a trend; women voted in favor of conservation more frequently than men did. We crunched the numbers, and they confirmed this hypothesis; Colorado’s female legislators voted to preserve our air, land, water, and quality of life significantly more than their male counterparts. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Men in the Colorado Senate scored 42.6% on our issues as a group, while female senators scored an impressive 67.5%
  • In the House, women voted in favor of conservation 66.9% of the time, compared to 51.4% of the time for men.

This certainly doesn’t mean that men are categorically poor environmental stewards or that male legislators don’t care about the environment. Our 2015 Legislator of the Year, Matt Jones, boasts an impressive 100% lifetime pro-conservation voting record. Not only that, he has consistently backed up his votes by sponsoring proactive bills and testifying against ones that threaten Colorado’s air, land, water, and quality of life.

However, the fact remains that women’s commitment to conservation is a well-established pattern on both the state and federal level. According to a collaborative report from the League of Conservation Voters and Rachel’s Network, women in both chambers of Congress have consistently been stronger advocates for the environment than men have.

In general, women tend to vote in favor of the environment, whether they are in the legislature or at the ballot box, which reflects how problematic it is that our gender representation is so lopsided. Colorado historically ranked first in the nation in electing women. That declined after the 2014 midterms though we still lead among many other states. Nationwide, women account for only 23 percent of state legislators and 17 percent of Congress, making the U.S. 73rd in the world for gender parity in elected offices. Electing more women would be a step in the right direction not just for equality in the U.S., but for protecting our communities for future generations.

Former Head of Colo. GOP SuperPAC Gets Two-Year Jail Sentence

We all know that campaign finance laws in the United States are about as airtight as a cardboard submarine. But for the first time that we can recall, somebody is going to jail for violating campaign finance regulations — and that somebody is directly connected to the Colorado Republican Party.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

As the Associated Press reports:

A Republican political operative was sentenced to two years in prison Friday after becoming the first person convicted of illegally coordinating campaign contributions between a super PAC and a congressional campaign.

Tyler Harber, 34, of Alexandria apologized at his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. He said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway because of his desire to win elections and his belief that the law banning such coordination is routinely ignored in the political world…

…Richard Pilger, director of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, said a stiff sentence was needed as a deterrent because the crime itself is so difficult to detect that fear of a lengthy prison sentence may be one of the only ways to keep political operatives in line.

If the name Tyler Harber sounds familiar to you, it should. Harber’s name began to surface earlier this year in the context of the State Republican Party’s March election for State Chairman. Harber and his political firm, Harden Global, worked closely with former State Republican Chair Ryan Call in recent years; Call lost his bid for re-election to Steve House partially because of this dubious connection, which was once part of a plan touted as Call’s “brain child.”

Colorado media outlets largely ignored this story, for some reason, until they were criticized by the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review in February:

Ryan Call, Steve House.

Ryan Call (left) and current Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House.

Here’s why this matters. In Citizens United and other cases in recent years, the US Supreme Court has relaxed many of the rules surrounding campaign finance, with the result that outside groups like super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts to help or oppose a candidate. One of the remaining restrictions is that outside groups and official candidate campaigns can’t coordinate their efforts—but politicos have found novel ways to get around that rule. And the Federal Elections Commission, which is in charge of regulating such behavior, is gridlocked along partisan lines and hasn’t been able to agree on how to respond.

So, the fact that federal prosecutors have decided to get involved, and that they actually busted someone, is a fairly big deal.

At the same time, campaign finance can be arcane stuff, and the congressional campaign in question was in Viriginia. In many states, the news likely didn’t find a spot in the local, or even national, sections of the daily newspaper. 

But in Colorado, it should have. Tyler Harber, the man at the center of this story, was the person tapped last year by the state Republican Party to head up an independent expenditure committee—akin to a super PAC, though the party doesn’t use that term—with ties to the state GOP last year. [Pols emphasis]

Back in February, Call compared Harber’s misdeeds to getting a traffic ticket…an analogy that seems particularly absurd now that Harber is looking at 2 years in jail. It will be interesting to see if charges of illegal coordination begin to make their way through the ranks of the Colorado GOP, or if Harber was able to fall on the grenade entirely.

This is a big win for Colorado Ethics Watch, among others, but also for American voters in general. Campaign finance laws absolutely need to be improved; we’re moving in the right direction, at least, by actually enforcing the existing laws.

BREAKING: Hickenlooper VETOES Interest Rate Hike Bill

FRIDAY UPDATE: More coverage in today’s Denver Post and Grand Junction Sentinel.

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UPDATE #3: The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela:

“While we certainly see the benefits of offering the loan and credit products that are considered in this legislation, it has not been clearly demonstrated that access to such loans is under threat,” Hickenlooper said in his veto letter.

The governor “was particularly struck” by testimony provided by the Attorney General’s office during a legislative committee hearing. That testimony included an analysis that indicated that changes to interest rate structures would not make these loans more available.

The bill sought to raise the maximum amount of interest charged for supervised loans from 21 to 36 percent for loans up to $3,000. Interest charges would spike from 15 to 21 percent on loans that carry balances of $3,000 to $5,000.

“These changes would result in a 200 percent increase in the loan amount allowed in the 36 percent interest rate tier and a two-thirds increase in the 21 percent interest rate tier,” Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]

And the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus:

Consumer-interest groups rejoiced on Thursday after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation that they feared would have hurt low-income individuals applying for small loans…

“Prior to approving any increase in the allowable amount of interest charged, we believe it is necessary to more fully explore and substantiate the claim that a change in the law is necessary for these products to be accessible,” Hickenlooper wrote in his veto explanation. “Colorado’s consumers deserve this clarity as they will ultimately carry the expense that would result from this legislation.”

The governor also pointed out that the legislation moved quickly through the legislative process. It was introduced as one of the last bills of the legislative session – which ended May 6 – and sat on the calendar for only a week before it cleared both chambers. [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE #2: From the Bell Policy Center, who led the underdog opposition to House Bill 15-1390 from progressive nonprofit groups:

Today Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have increased loan costs for low- and moderate-income Coloradans. The Bell led more than a dozen organizations in asking the governor to veto this bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (House Bill 15-1390). We greatly appreciate the governor’s action to protect Colorado consumers.

HB15-1390, which was hurried through in the last week of the 120-day legislative session, would have increased the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The bill would have cost Coloradans more than $25 million in additional interest charges, according to a Center for Responsible Lending analysis of the two largest lenders in Colorado…

The governor’s veto represents a huge victory for hardworking Coloradans. This bill would have dramatically increased the revenues of very profitable lenders at the expense of families struggling to make ends meet. To learn more about why this bill was bad for Colorado, check out our fact sheet.

As the governor’s veto said, any additional conversations about this issue will need to include all stakeholders. If those conversations happen, the Bell will be closely involved and will do our best to ensure that all voices are included.

—–

UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper has released a letter explaining his veto of House Bill 15-1390. You can read it in its entirety here, and here’s an excerpt:

vetoimage

From a statement by ProgressNow Colorado, one of the groups who opposed this bill:

“House Bill 1390 was bad policy, introduced at the last possible minute to stifle debate, and written specifically to allow big lenders to hike interest rates on consumers who can least afford it,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Increasing the total cost of a personal loan by almost 40% is not the way to help Colorado families get their finances in order. This legislation was sold to lawmakers in both parties based on misleading arguments and threats by big lending corporations that don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

“At a time when Colorado’s middle class families are just beginning to recover from the recent recession–a recession brought on in part by irresponsible predatory lending practices–the last thing they need is a 36% interest rate to borrow money,” said Runyon-Harms. “The truth is, personal lenders issued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these loans in Colorado last year, and the subprime lending industry’s profits are skyrocketing nationwide. They don’t need to hike up interest rates on borrowers who can least afford it to ‘stay in business.’”

—–

loanshark2We’ve just received word that Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto House Bill 15-1390 today, a hotly controversial bill to allow large interest rate hikes on subprime personal loans that passed in the final days of this year’s legislative session. Hickenlooper’s veto comes after an urgent campaign by a few progressive and consumer groups led by the Bell Policy Center against the legislation, after it passed with dismaying speed out of the Democratic-controlled House with most Democrats voting in favor. In the Senate, most Democrats opposed the legislation after advocates were able to sound the alarm.

As for the many Democrats who voted for this bill, the Democratic House leadership who allowed it to be introduced at the end of the session, and Democratic lobbyists who convinced them it would be okay? They’ve all got egg on their faces, and may well draw heat for their actions at upcoming town hall meetings from their constituents.

And you know what, folks? They should. This was truly a low point for Colorado legislative Democrats, a significant breach of faith with their base voters–and there should be a price paid to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage–a big victory for scrappy nonprofit groups, over both Republicans and backsliding Democrats in the General Assembly. And also a good day for Gov. Hickenlooper, who showed real independence from the corporate interests he is often criticized for being beholden to.

Sometimes the good guys actually do win. And that’s pretty cool.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 4)

Get More SmarterAfter a seven-day layoff, the NBA Finals finally kick off tonight. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Let’s investigate! Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner want the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation into what went wrong with the still-under-construction Aurora VA Hospital (even though the GAO has already done this). Maybe they should ask Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) to investigate something; after all, Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) is considering a run for U.S. Senate (or Congress), but the more she talks, the more problems she creates for herself.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 3)

Get More SmarterColorado is purty. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are asking the Veterans Affairs Department to dig into its own pockets to find the money to finish the VA Hospital Project in Aurora. One again, we remind you that Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► The runoff for Denver’s Municipal Elections is finally over. Kevin Flynn, Jolon Clark, Wayne New, and Stacie Gilmore were each successful in their respective races.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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BREAKING: Mike Coffman Will NOT Run for Senate in 2016

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R) tells another tall tale.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post with the breaking news confirming what we’ve been saying for months now: Rep. Mike Coffman will NOT challenge Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016:

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman won’t challenge Democrat Michael Bennet in Colorado’s Senate race next year despite being wooed by local and national Republicans.

“It certainly was an option I was looking at,” Coffman, an Aurora Republican, told The Denver Post Monday.

We’re not surprised to hear this announcement from Coffman, nor are we surprised with his attempt to pivot and present himself as a “leader” on the Veterans Hospital fiasco in Aurora — though his aggressiveness on the latter issue raises a few eyebrows. Coffman clearly senses that the Aurora VA Hospital mess is a political problem for him, as it should be — after all, Coffman represents Aurora and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Check out the not-so-subtle change of topic by Coffman:

“But the fact is, I’m really able to get things done where I am right now. I’ve emerged as a national leader on veterans issues.”

Problems with a Veterans Administration hospital project in Aurora have made headlines for weeks. The Post reported in May that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials in Washington knew about management problems with the project as early as May 2011 — seven months before construction began — yet two years passed before any changes were made…

…The left, including ProgressNow Colorado, has tried to blame the VA fiasco on Coffman.

“Coffman can be outraged. He can be frustrated. But he cannot be shocked or surprised when as Chair of the Oversight Committee, he had known this information for years — and until recently has done almost nothing to fix the problem,” said director Amy-Runyon Harms.

Coffman on Monday called the claims “ridiculous,” [Pols emphasis] adding the “culture of bureaucratic incompetency” has gone on for several years at the Veterans Administration.

Coffman is clearly concerned that the VA Hospital could end his political career, which no doubt helped make his decision to run for re-election in CD-6 rather than challenge Bennet in 2016. Perhaps Coffman reasoned that he stood a better chance of withstanding the VA Hospital storm if he was not running statewide at the same time.

Meanwhile, Republicans have to figure out what to do now that their only serious potential Senate challenger has taken a pass. If the GOP had a bench, we’d be looking in that direction ourselves.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Holy Crap it’s June 1)

Get More SmarterIf you’ve been wondering what Bruce Jenner will look like as a woman…well, the wait is over. Here’s Caitlyn Jenner (and check out this helpful tip sheet from GLAAD). It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado Veterans took part in a rally yesterday in Aurora to encourage Congress to find the money to complete the Aurora VA Hospital. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) was on hand to join the calls to “Finish the damn thing.” Also on hand was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigationsand he told the crowd pretty much the opposite of what they wanted to hear.

► Speaking of rallies, more than 2,500 people turned out in rainy weather in Southern Jefferson County to voice their concern with the Jeffco School Board and Superintendent Dan McMinimee

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 29)

Get More SmarterLet’s just repeat Memorial Day weekend once more, eh? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► State Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora) has died at the age of 67 after dealing with a respiratory illness. Buckner took a leave from the legislature in late April because of health concerns.

► Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee has some explaining to do in the wake of the resignation of Communications Director Lisa Pinto (as first reported at Jeffco Pols). Pinto was hired by McMinimee despite the fact that she was largely unqualified for the job — aside from being a right-wing crony, of course. 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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State Rep. John Buckner Dies

Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora).

Rep. John Buckner (D-Aurora).

As the Aurora Sentinel reports, allow us to add our condolences to Rep. John Buckner’s family and many friends:

Mr. Buckner, who represented Colorado House District 40 in southern Aurora, announced in late April that he was taking sudden leave from the General Assembly for the remainder of the legislative session to address health concerns.

In the state House, Mr. Buckner was chairman of the House Education Committee, where he was a proponent of streamlining Colorado student assessments.

“What a lovely, smart, accomplished man,” said state Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, on Twitter after hearing word of Buckner’s death. “He will be sorely missed at (the General Assembly)…”

“He was a great statesman and was a voice of clarity and conviction on educational policy,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “The world has lost a tireless advocate for kids, families, justice and equal rights.”

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels:

Earlier this year, the Aurora Democrat came down with a virus that impacted his respiratory problems. But he was expected to recover, which he referred to when he wrote a letter to fellow members of the House telling them he would be absent: “While I am sure some of you are relieved to get a break from me, don’t think for a moment that you’ve run me off!”

…Among those who mourned Buckner’s passing was former state Sen. Nancy Spence, a Centennial Republican. She has always credited “Mr. Buckner” for helping her son Greg graduate from Smoky Hill. He now is a producer on “Game of Thrones.”

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 28)

Get More SmarterIs this week still happening? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The ugliness just doesn’t stop when it comes to the right-wing Jefferson County School Board. Here’s video of School Board President Ken Witt refusing to allow a student to speak about LGBT rights at a public board meeting.

The EPA has finalized a new clean water rule intended to help crack down on polluters.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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#COLEG Efforts To Sell Public Lands: Nonsense

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.19.56 PM

Why We Saw Public Land Seizure This Year 

Public land seizure has been making headlines in Colorado and across the West for years now, and lots of us aren’t quite sure what to make of it. This confusion is understandable; the logic behind the movement is not particularly coherent and there are a lot of different influences at play. Terms and names are often dropped, and their relationship to one another is not always clear — what or who is ALEC? What is ALC? What does this have to do with Cliven Bundy?

And last but not least, how exactly would this idea work?

We intend to clear all this up for you.

What is public land seizure?

Short answer: Nonsense.

Long answer: Public land seizure is essentially the idea that land currently managed by national agencies should be owned by the state. The legal validity, financial prudence, and feasibility of this argument have all been debunked several times over, and yet it persists. It stems from ideological values that resemble those of Cliven Bundy, the law-breaking Nevada rancher who made headlines last year for engaging in an armed standoff with BLM officials because he didn’t want to pay grazing fees. His basis for this was simply that he doesn’t believe that the American government is legitimate.

We’ve seen this before — in the “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the late 1970s and early 1980s, ranchers rebelled against the federal government because of grazing fees that they felt were too high, despite the fact that they are usually a fraction of the average private leasing cost.

If this reasoning seems bizarre, that’s because it is. The real reason for these efforts is not a principled stand against federal overreach, it’s a thinly veiled push to privatize and profit off our land, mostly through extractive industries.

Yeah, but there must be some grounds on which people are arguing for it.

Short answer: Not really.

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Pro-Gun Columbine “Backlash” Snares Aurora Shooting Victims

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Huffington Post’s Gabriel Arana took note of a story on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show late last week that we’re surprised hasn’t received more local coverage, and we didn’t want it to escape mention. The parents of one of the victims of the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, a case currently being tried in an Arapahoe County court, sued online gun dealers who sold the alleged perpetrator of that crime some of the ammunition and other items used in the massacre.

But a law passed in 2000 by the GOP-controlled Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by GOP Gov. Bill Owens turned Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ pursuit of justice for shooting victim Jessica Ghawi into a nightmare:

Maddow opened her show with heart-rending footage of the Aurora trial. She highlighted the testimony of Brenton Lowak, whose friend Jessica Ghawi — a 24-year-old aspiring sports reporter — died in the shooting.

Here’s the part that set off the Outrage-O-Meter: Jessica’s parents have been ordered by a judge in Colorado to pay $220,000 to the gun retailers who sold Holmes his weapon.

The parents unsuccessfully sued the retailers whose products were used in the Aurora shooting. Colorado state law requires that plaintiffs who sue the manufacturers or dealers of gun products pay the companies’ legal fees if they lose.

“That’s not a typo,” Maddow said, adding, “The mother and father of the victim who died in the Aurora mass shooting have just been ordered to pay a quarter-million dollars to the gun retailers who sold the bullets that were used in the Aurora mass shooting — the parents of the girl who was killed.”

A Reuters blog post by attorney Alison Frankel explains what happened here:

In 2014, Ghawi’s mother and stepfather, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, sued the companies that supplied Holmes with ammunition and body armor. The suit named Lucky Gunner, which operates as BulkAmmo.com and sold Holmes more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition; The Sportsman’s Guide, which sold him a 100-round magazine and 700 rounds; BTP Arms, which supplied two canisters of tear gas; and Bullet Proof Body Armor.

The Phillipses’ suit faced long odds. Both the U.S. and Colorado (along with many other states) have laws shielding guns and ammo dealers from liability to shooting victims in most circumstances. (They may be responsible, for instance, if they’ve sold a defective product or violated gun sale regulations.) The federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, has been subjected to many challenges, including allegations that it violates the constitutional separation of powers doctrine because it impinges on states’ lawmaking powers and the constitutional due process rights of shooting victims with common-law claims. According to the Justice Department, those constitutional challenges have all failed.

But the Phillipses and their lawyers at Arnold & Porter argued their case was different because the dealers sold weaponry to Holmes over the Internet, without ever seeing his face or assessing his state of mind. That made the dealers negligent, the Phillipses said, despite their protections under state and federal law. [Pols emphasis] “A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question, with the simple click of a mouse,” the Brady Center gun control advocacy group said in a statement announcing the Phillipses’ suit, in which Brady Center lawyers are also involved. “If businesses choose to sell military-grade equipment online, they must screen purchasers to prevent arming people like James Holmes.”

Unfortunately for the Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, in 2000, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 00-1208. This legislation was part of the intense debates over gun safety that took place in the aftermath of the Columbine High School mass shooting in April of 1999. Most Colorado residents only remember the constitutional ballot measure, Amendment 22, which closed the so-called “gun show loophole” that allowed guns to be sold at shows without a background check. But House Bill 00-1208 was part of a backlash against greater gun control, mostly backed by Republican legislators. Similar legislation was passed at the federal level in 2005. Here’s what House Bill 00-1208 says:

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