BREAKING: Shooting At Colorado Liberal Political Office Building

The Alliance Center, Denver CO.

The Alliance Center, Denver CO.

A terrible story taking over local headlines right now, though there’s not much to say just yet. Denver Post:

Denver Police and emergency crews swarmed into lower downtown Tuesday afternoon after a gunman opened fire inside a crowded office building. Police said the gunman is dead.

One woman was taken to Denver Health in critical condition with multiple gunshots, said Dr. Eric Lavonas.

Police closed streets near 15th and Wynkoop and urged merchants and residents in the area to shelter in place. Police said officers have cleared the shooting scene at the Alliance Center in the 1500 block of Wynkoop in what remains an active investigation. The building houses a number of left-leaning political and environmental groups.

We’ve heard early reports suggesting that the employees of a number of liberal and environmental groups who have offices at the Alliance Center, including Conservation Colorado and Common Cause, were not injured. We’ll update once we learn more about the victim(s) and the shooter.

Scary stuff, folks–but as always, let’s be careful about speculating until we know more.

Democrats Flummox GOP with House Sit-In on Gun Violence

Democrats in the House during their "sit-in" demanding votes on gun violence legislation.

Democrats in the House during their “sit-in” demanding votes on gun violence legislation.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives — including Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter — ended their “sit-in” effort to force Congress to vote on new gun violence legislation, but not without succeeding in raising the level of political importance for the issue. As the New York Times reports:

The Democrats ended their sit-in about 1 p.m. on Thursday, about 25 hours after it began. Mr. Ryan interrupted them on Wednesday by personally reclaimed control of the House, pounding his gavel and muscling through a major appropriations bill without debate. He and the Republicans, who hold the majority, then declared the House adjourned with no votes until after the Fourth of July holiday — leaving Democrats to continue their protest effort in a dormant chamber.

Still, Democrats finally relented several hours later. They gave speeches all through the night, which they broadcast using Periscope, the live streaming feature of Twitter. And they said they would continue to press their case throughout the recess for votes to tighten the nation’s gun control laws…

…By pushing through the appropriations bill — it included $1.1 billion in emergency financing to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus — on a largely party line vote without any debate, Mr. Ryan had to abandon his commitment to regular order in the House. That was a step that he said he had taken with absolutely no remorse, given the Democrats’ efforts at obstruction.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been trying hard to spin the Democrats’ move as a “publicity stunt,” conveniently ignoring the obvious point that the reason this move earned so much media coverage is precisely because of the Republican response. As the Washington Post reports:

Republicans, unsure about how to deal with a sit-in that started on the House floor yesterday at 11:30 a.m., tried to talk over Democrats and hold routine votes. Then, around 3:30 a.m., they adjourned the chamber until after July Fourth – two days earlier than planned. In so doing, they’ve guaranteed that the debate about gun control will roil the congressional recess and remain a dominant storyline for the next two weeks.

“This isn’t trying to come up with a solution to a problem; this is trying to get attention,” the Speaker complained on TV late last night. That is neither true nor fair. In fact, nearly two weeks after the mass murder of 49 in Orlando, Democrats are merely trying to secure up-or-down votes on a variety of very specific gun control proposals – including a measure that would prevent suspected terrorists from being able to buy firearms and another that would expand background checks. [Pols emphasis]

Speaker Ryan can bellyache about this maneuver as much as he wants, but any claims that Democrats are interfering with the daily matters of the House are falling on deaf ears thanks to his Senate colleagues. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared earlier this year that the Senate would refuse to even hold a hearing on selecting a new Supreme Court judge — blatantly ignoring the Constitution — he ensured that Republicans alone would own the title of obstructionists.

Republicans will likely continue to dig-in on the issue and refuse to do anything related to guns, but the massive amount of media coverage generated by House Democrats ensures that such a move is more than just a political gamble in 2016 — for a number of Republican candidates and incumbents, their future in elected office is now tied directly to Congressional inaction on gun violence.

 

State Senate GOP: Colorado Pols Has “No Credibility”

We posted a few examples yesterday of social media responses from Colorado Republican state senators, as well as the official account of the Colorado Senate Republican press office, both blaming President Barack Obama for last weekend’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as well as at least one post disparaging LGBT Americans themselves in the hours after the attack. The latter was posted by Sen. Randy Baumgardner:

Baumgardner facebook

Baumgardner’s Democratic opponent in Senate District 8 this year, Emily Tracy, reacted angrily to our blog about Baumgardner’s anti-gay post-Orlando Facebooking:

To which the Senate GOP responded with an attack…on us?

So folks, we can take the heat. But can we ask in all seriousness how our writing about Baumgardner’s social media content “distorts, deceives, or demeans” anyone? If anything, we would say those terms all apply to…well, to Baumgardner’s Facebook post, wouldn’t they? Not to our calling attention to it. Right?

We get that this response from the official Colorado Senate GOP mouthpiece is more of a knee-jerk insult than a thoughtful comeback. But given the very clearly “demeaning” material we called out in our post yesterday, to which we have yet to see any substantive response, this all seems like especially nonsensical bile.

And it surer than hell doesn’t make the one-seat Senate GOP majority look good.

Bennet Joins Post-Orlando Gun Safety Filibuster


As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined with fellow Democrats this week in a day-long filibuster to call attention to the need for enhanced gun safety legislation following last weekend’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, up for re-election in Colorado this fall, joined 30 of his Democratic colleagues in D.C. for a filibuster about gun laws [Wednesday] following the latest massacre, this time in Orlando, which left a bloody mark as the worst single-gunman mass shooting in U.S. history…

When Bennet took the floor, he talked about the difference between the ways Colorado lawmakers and Congress have reacted to gun violence. Colorado has passed new laws; Congress has not.

“Unlike Washington, in Colorado our legislators actually rose to the occasion to take some tough decisions … they got together and they actually strengthened our background check system. Colorado’s legislature closed the gun show loophole and the internet loophole and required a background check for every gun sale,” Bennet said.

The Senator then ran down the list of what that has meant for Colorado in practice within the past year.

“I want to be precise about this,” he said, noting that in 2015 background checks had blocked 7,714 people from buying guns, a figure that made up about 2 percent of the applications for firearms purchases.

Those within that 2 percent included murderers, rapists, domestic abusers and kidnappers who were denied guns because of the new rules, Bennet said.

“Is there anyone who is going to come to the floor of the United States Senate and say that Colorado is worse off because we’ve kept guns out of the hands of murderers or kidnappers or rapists?” he asked. “This isn’t mythical. This is the actual fact of what’s going on in a Western state that has background checks.” [Pols emphasis]

Bennet’s defense of Colorado’s landmark gun laws is in fact very important to the national debate now taking place over strengthening federal gun safety laws. One of the most critical reforms sought nationally has been standard practice in Colorado in part since 2000 and fully since 2013: universal background checks, both on gun purchases made at gun shows (2000’s post-Columbine Amendment 22) and on most private transfers of guns outside immediate family members (2013’s House Bill 1229).

Colorado’s experience with closing loopholes that allowed weapons to be purchased without a background check has shown that these are workable policies that do result in thousands of gun sales to criminals being stopped–both outright denied purchases, as well as the deterrent effect of having the policy in place. That a Western state like Colorado with its long tradition of gun ownership can successfully implement strict background checks on gun sales shows it can be done nationally–neutralizing a key argument of the gun lobby against them. Politically, Colorado is increasingly a model for passing gun safety legislation and then successfully weathering fierce political reprisals from gun rights zealots. After the high water mark of the 2013 recall elections, the new laws have notably failed to become the cautionary tale the gun lobby wanted them to be.

As desperate as the gun lobby was to stop Colorado’s push to tighten gun laws after the Aurora theater massacre, or failing that to at least contain their spread by exacting a heavy and lasting political toll, their failure is evident with each horrific killing spree. At least for a little while, the conversation inevitably comes back to the easy availability of military weapons that can cut down dozens of people effortlessly. Colorado didn’t want to take the lead on gun safety, it was a responsibility placed on our state by events no one would ever wish for.

When the rest of America is ready, Colorado will still be the model.

Terror, hate, and guns

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The shocking violence committed against LGBT Americans in Orlando this weekend has horrified us all. This weekend’s attack on the Pulse nightclub brought together the combined threats of terrorism, gun violence, and bigotry our nation faces today.

Is it time for the nation to follow Colorado’s model on gun safety? Click here to say yes.

Here in Colorado, we took action after the Aurora theater shootings to reduce the threat of gun violence. In 2013 we tightened background checks, limited gun magazine capacity, and made it harder for dangerous domestic violence offenders to have guns. Our state’s painful history of mass murder has forced us to take the lead in finding solutions to gun violence.

No law has perfect compliance. Criminals by definition are lawbreakers. But in Colorado, we know that our gun laws have saved lives. In 2015 alone, over 7,700 criminals attempting to buy guns in Colorado were stopped by universal background checks–including 22 arrested or convicted of homicide, 17 for kidnapping, and 130 for sexual assault. In addition, 251 fugitives attempting to buy a gun were arrested on site. [1] We know that a pause to reload a semiautomatic weapon saves lives in mass shootings. And we know that protecting victims of violence from more violence is the right thing to do.

Sign our petition now: it’s time for the nation to follow Colorado’s lead. It’s time for America to get serious about stopping gun violence. And hatred of LGBT Americans. And terrorism that threatens us all.

Orlando LGBT Terror Attack Stuns Nation

UPDATE #3: From One Colorado, the state’s biggest LGBT advocacy group:

Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families, issued the following statement in response to the shooting last night at an Orlando gay nightclub that killed 50 and injured more than 50 others.

“We are shocked and devastated by the horrible shooting that occurred in Orlando last night and our hearts are with the victims and families who have been impacted by this horrific act of violence targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Orlando.”

“June commemorates Pride month and gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place for LGBTQ people and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. We will all continue to work to address the hatred that causes these senseless acts of violence in hopes that something like this never happens again.”

And from Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst:

“My heart goes out to the victims of this attack, to their families, and to the greater LGBT community. This morning’s attack is a reminder to us all that gun violence in America is a plague that afflicts every state, every city and every community. That this was a targeted and hateful terror attack against the LGBT community only compounds our hurt today. We must all come together, as a nation, to do more to stop the mass gun violence that plagues this country, and stand together against hate and extremism however it manifests itself.”

—–

UPDATE #2: Statement from Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman:

guzmanstatement

—–

UPDATE: The father of the alleged shooter in Orlando says that he believes the attack was motivated by his son’s anger at recently witnessing open affection from two gay men. According to NBC News, “This had nothing to do with religion,” said Mir Seddique.

—–

shutterstock_290918210-800x430

What a horrible thing to wake up to. CNN:

Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters…

Orlando authorities said they consider the violence an act of domestic terror. The FBI is involved. While investigators are exploring all angles, they “have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can’t say definitely,” said Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Orlando bureau.

Authorities are also looking into the possibility the attack was a hate crime, a law enforcement source told CNN.

We’re not yet in a position to evaluate the full implications of this terrible news. But we’ll update as we learn more about what happened last night, and our thoughts are with these victims–and all victims of both terrorism and hatred across the world.

Latest Maketa Indictments Highlight Problem of Police Domestic Violence

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Terry Maketa, former El Paso County Sheriff, was indicted Wednesday, May 25, 2016, by a Grand Jury on six felony counts, including extortion, tampering with a witness, and second-degree kidnapping.  The latter two charges stem from Maketa and codefendants Paula Presley and Juan San Agustin intimidating a witness to keep her from testifying against her abuser, a deputy under Maketa’s supervision.

From Benzel and Sun’s Gazette reporting:

After a sheriff’s deputy was arrested in August 2013 for assaulting his girlfriend, Maketa directed the woman to recant her story and tell investigators she “instigated the incident in order to allow (the deputy) to get his job back,” the indictment alleges. When the woman, a civilian jail employee, followed his instructions and provided a false confession about being “the aggressor,” she was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, assault and driving under the influence.

“Detective Lisa Kaiser, the interviewing and arresting officer, did not believe she had probable cause to arrest (the woman) for either crime, but arrested (her) because the order came from her superiors,” the indictment says.

Maketa was booked and bonded out of jail on Thursday, May 26 .  Maketa had resigned in disgrace in 2014, ahead of a recall effort, amidst charges of sexual misconduct, corruption, and incompetence in his office.

Terry Maketa's mugshot

Maketa’s 5/25/16 mugshot  Credit : Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office

Maketa was one of the so-called “Constitutional Sheriffs” involved in a lawsuit against Colorado’s stricter gun laws, including magazine size limits and background check requirements.

Colorado media outlets have capitalized on the lurid sexual content of the Maketa case – Westword,   the Denver Post, and the Colorado Springs Gazette have all run stories emphasizing the conduct of the “Shirtless Sheriff”. We’re all sick of that steamy shower selfie, so, please, Pols, don’t post it in this diary.

(more…)

SD-27 Democrat Tom Sullivan Nets Huge Kickoff Haul

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

A press release from Democratic Colorado Senate candidate Tom Sullivan, running in a “reach goal” race in Senate District 27 against appointed Republican Sen. Jack Tate, shows “Sully” off to a smashing start:

Newly released campaign finance numbers tell a compelling story about an unlikely candidate: not only is Tom Sullivan, the Democratic candidate in the State Senate race for District 27 getting an effective populist message out but that a significant number of voters are literally buying into his fight for the middle class.

For the first quarter of 2016, Sullivan has raised $30,876, toppling Republican opponent Jack Tate’s first quarter contributions eight times over. Sullivan’s opponent is also under a campaign finance complaint investigation for rolling over too much money from his State House to State Senate committee. Notwithstanding, they are now nearly neck-and-neck in total funds raised.

Sullivan is known in the community as the father of Alex Sullivan, one of twelve murdered in the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting. He’s also an Air Force veteran and retired postal worker; none of these experiences reveal any sort of political acumen, and when filing to run on February 23, few could have seen the powerhouse he would soon become…

That’s a head-turning quarterly take for a state legislative race without a doubt, and as the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund reports in a separate release, Jack Tate has his own problems:

tatexfer

According to state statute, campaign committees have a limit to the amount of money they can roll over from one race to another, intended to prevent campaigns from dodging contribution limits when pursuing higher office.* It’s a significant violation, both financially and ethically, and one that people familiar with campaigns or business should know about. That’s why Tate’s alleged violation is surprising: he’s the self-proclaimed pro-business candidate in Senate District 27.

“He runs on the idea that since he knows how to run a business, he can run a Senate seat. But with such an obvious violation of Colorado law, it’s evident his campaign has a troublesome problem with adhering very clear finance guidelines,” says Ali Vail, the claimant who filed the violation. “It’s bad business, pure and simple.”

*Colorado Constitution, rule 2.2.4(b)(3). The amount limit is $22,125. Tate’s campaign rolled over $27,736.67 — $5,611.67 more than the legal limit.

A sloppy error for Tate if the complaint bears out–and combined with Sullivan’s powerful show of support since launching his campaign in late February, it’s more evidence that this race will be competitive in ways that the voter registration breakdown in the district can’t account for. Tate is an undistinguished junior legislator who was just appointed to his Senate seat. He has no real advantage in this race whatsoever, only a slightly more favorable ratio of registered Republicans to Democrats in an overall competitive district.

No folks, it’s Sullivan–his story, and now the strength he is showing as a candidate–that makes this race special.

Caption This Photo: “Dirty Douggie” Lamborn!

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, not generally known as a rugged manly-man politician, nonetheless got his “man card” renewed with a visit to the Magnum Shooting Center–perhaps a very good idea in advance of his unexpectedly stiff primary challenge from a charismatic young female opponent. Lamborn asks, do you feel lucky?

Well do you, punk?

unnamed (1)

Are we the only ones who find that look on his face a little…disconcerting? A few more photos of the all-new Badass Doug Lamborn® after the jump.

(more…)

Tom Sullivan’s War: Casus Belli

We’ve had a few occasions to mention the name Tom Sullivan in recent years, long before he announced his candidacy for the Colorado Senate a few weeks ago. Sullivan is the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting that left 12 people dead and many dozens more wounded. Photos of an anguished Tom Sullivan desperately seeking information about his son in the hours after the shooting are seared into the memory of everyone who was following the news that day, whether he knew his name or (more likely) not.

In 2013, Sullivan joined with survivors and family from the Aurora shooting, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred just months after Aurora, and other incidents of gun violence to testify in support of the gun safety bills passed that year: requiring background checks for most transfers of firearms, limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and strengthening protections for domestic violence victims. Sullivan earned a reputation as one of the most dedicated witnesses on either side of these debates, with his clear ringing voice and harrowing story forcing even the most jaded pro-gun Republican to at least acknowledge his loss.

For awhile, anyway.

Unfortunately, Sullivan has increasingly endured what we can only describe as totally inappropriate disrespect from a variety Republican lawmakers. We took note of a incident in May of 2013 in which Sen. Bill Cadman flew into an insolent rage at Sullivan during a Denver Post panel on the legislative session. And during this week’s hearing in the Colorado State Affairs Committee, Sullivan was dissed again:

everettneville

This photo was taken at the exact moment Sullivan was testifying late Monday night about the death of his son in the Aurora theater shooting during testimony against Senate Bill 16-113, the bill to repeal the 15-round magazine limit. These two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Justin “Sleepy Dwarf” Everett and Patrick Neville, are co-sponsors of the bill. Sources tell us that Rep. Everett never looked up even once during Sullivan’s entire testimony, apparently engaged in an intense…well, something or other on his smartphone. Facebook? Angry Birds? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that this is unacceptable behavior for a lawmaker listening to witness testimony on their bill. And before you shoot back with a photo of a Democrat looking downward in a hearing, you’ll want to explain to us in detail the moment in time the photo originated.

For example, the moment a witness is testifying about the murder of his son.

As the debate over the 2013 gun laws has dragged on in the Colorado legislature, we don’t doubt that the failure of pro-gun Republicans to repeal them has provoked great frustration. The recalls didn’t scare Democrats into abandoning their principles, and the 2014 “GOP wave” election’s failure to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper or the Democratic House proved only that the 2013 gun laws were not going anywhere.

But folks, this infantile disrespect for Tom Sullivan is not the way to express their frustration. We don’t care how many times they’ve seen him testify. Especially as sponsors of the bill to repeal what he fought for, they owe Sullivan their attention every time.

If they won’t give it to him as a citizen, we’ll see what they do when he’s a senator.

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.

Loveland Reporter-Herald Rips Sen. John Cooke

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

We took note earlier this week, as did gun safety activists, of remarks by Sen. John Cooke of Greeley during debate last week over Senate Bill 16-113–legislation that would repeal the state’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed in 2013. Sen. Cooke, making the argument that the magazine limit is not enforceable, explained that he tells his “people,” whom we assume to be his constituents to “go to Wyoming” to buy high-capacity magazines that aren’t legally sold in Colorado.

You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it any less illegal to bring those high-capacity magazines back into the state of Colorado from Wyoming once you buy one. Sen. Cooke is surely aware of this, since in his previous job as Weld County Sheriff he was responsible for patrolling a significant length of the Colorado/Wyoming border to prevent illegal fireworks being brought into our state. Any way you slice it, Cooke’s encouragement to break the law and (most importantly) advice on how to break the law is not appropriate for a lawmaker–and not okay from a former sworn law enforcement officer.

We’re happy to report that, in a hard-hitting editorial today, the Loveland Reporter-Herald agrees:

Crossing the border into Wyoming to purchase items that are illegal in Colorado happens all the time. Flying and exploding fireworks are illegal on this side of the state line, so Coloradans who believe that this state’s fireworks regulations are onerous regularly take the risk of driving over the state line and purchasing fireworks that they may legally possess in Wyoming. Bringing them back across the border is illegal, and any elected representative who would encourage his constituents to do so could lead them to run afoul of the law and common sense.

Cooke has been an opponent of gun control measures passed in 2013, to the point of saying when he was sheriff of Weld County that he would not enforce those laws. He was within his legal right to do so.

Choosing not to enforce a law is one thing, but encouraging people to break the law is beneath the office of a state senator. [Pols emphasis] It would be as if a legislator in Nebraska who disagreed with marijuana prohibition encouraged Nebraskans to make their purchases in Colorado and return home with them, as some of Cooke’s opponents have pointed out.

It’s true, and the Reporter-Herald does make the point that Sen. Cooke has a constitutional right to tell his constituents it’s okay break the law–and even how to do it. But a constitutional right to say something does not make it a responsible thing to say, and a lawmaker can reasonably be held to a higher expectation where it concerns basic respect for the law. We would say the same of law enforcement officers like Colorado’s elected county sheriffs.

We’re pleased to see some accountability in the local press. However you may feel about Colorado’s gun laws, and we know there are strong opinions here, lawmakers encouraging citizens to break laws crosses a line.

How Ted Cruz Legitimized Dudley Brown

brownrnc

cruzslateSetting aside Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about how opponent Ted Cruz managed to completely dominate the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention from Colorado, we’ve already focused on the role of both local and national gun-rights organizations in organizing and consolidating the pro-Cruz delegate slate. With the state assembly in the books, it’s clear now that the threat of Trump’s nomination has produced an unlikely coalition of basically every other interest group in Colorado Republican politics–a shift could change the conservative political landscape in our state in lasting ways.

And as the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, not good ways:

Colorado’s Republican activist base had an inherent attraction to Cruz’s strain of conservative politics, and the Cruz campaign had a masterful understanding of how the delegate-selection process works in Colorado. Add a dash of anti-Trump (or #NeverTrump) sentiment into the mix and you saw a slate of Cruz-backers working toward the same goal even if they represented factions in Colorado politics that don’t often work together in elections. Dudley Brown, the head of the polarizing Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group, for instance, found his name on a flyer alongside that of Secretary of State Wayne Williams who represents a more mainstream faction of the state GOP.

The last few years have witnessed a state of more or less continuous infighting within the Colorado Republican Party, which has frequently boiled over into very public conflicts–the departure of former chairman Dick Wadhams under heavy fire from the conservative “Tea Party” grassroots, the defeat of Wadhams’ successor Ryan Call by Steve House, and the coup attempt just months later against House all being symptoms of the underlying problem. Much of this tension can be traced directly back to Dudley Brown and his stable of RMGO-owned candidates and legislators. Meanwhile, “establishment” Republicans have openly worked to distance themselves from Brown’s political machine.

To us, the veneer of separation between Brown and today’s Colorado GOP has been increasingly anachronistic, especially in the years since the 2013 pro-gun recall elections. The 2013 recalls were a watershed moment for the Colorado GOP–and an ascendant moment for Brown and RMGO that cemented their control of the party grassroots. Brown’s power was demonstrated once again with 2014 primary victories that elevated Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez over establishment-backed GOP candidates.

This weekend, Dudley Brown stood on stage with Secretary of State Wayne Williams to claim victory in Colorado for Ted Cruz in the desperate battle to stop Donald Trump. Brown himself was elected not just to the RNC as a national delegate as he has in prior years, but also to the national convention’s platform committee. Even though Brown’s favored U.S. Senate candidate longtime ally Sen. Tim Neville lost out after Darryl Glenn’s fiery convention speech, there’s no question that the present state of chaos in the Republican Party is working out very well for Dudley Brown.

And that is a story we could be talking about well after 2016.

Colorado Lawmaker: Here’s How You Break The Law

UPDATE: Colorado Ceasefire condemns Sen. John Cooke’s remarks yesterday in very strong terms:

Those who support the repeal of the ammunition magazine ban have repeatedly argued that the law inconveniences law-abiding citizens. “Sen. Cooke, as one of the leading supporters of the repeal, advocated that these same law-abiding citizens become criminals,” noted Jacqui Shumway, a board member of Colorado Ceasefire.

“What Senator Cooke doesn’t seem to understand is that the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed a high capacity magazine ban in order to save lives, and it is the law in Colorado. 82 people were wounded and 12 were killed in the Aurora Theater, where a 100-round drum was employed,” said Tom Mauser, also with Colorado Ceasefire. Mauser’s son Daniel was shot and killed at Columbine High School in 1999, where high-capacity magazines contributed to the carnage.

“Sheriff Cooke shamed himself and his state when he proclaimed he would not enforce the gun laws passed by the General Assembly in 2013. Now as a senator in that same Assembly, Cooke violates the expectations the people have of a lawmaker,” said Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action. “While he works to enact laws by day, in his off-time he is advising citizens to break them.”

Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado also fired up:

“Everyone knows the gun lobby dislikes Colorado’s magazine limit law, but it’s the law of the land,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Sen. John Cooke has every right to introduce legislation to repeal a law his benefactors in the gun industry doesn’t like. But when Sen. Cooke encourages citizens to break existing law, even telling them to cross state lines to buy illegal products in another state, he is going too far.”

“As Weld County Sheriff, Sen. Cooke was responsible for policing the Wyoming border to stop illegal fireworks being smuggled into Colorado,” said Franklin. “Did Cooke tell Coloradans to ‘go to Wyoming’ for illegal fireworks? Would Cooke tell the citizens of Nebraska they have a right to take legal Colorado marijuana back across the border to a state where it is illegal?”

“Cooke’s flagrant encouragement of Coloradans to break the law, despite the risk of fines, jail time, and a criminal record, makes a mockery of his responsibilities as a lawmaker,” said Franklin. “If Cooke wants to advocate the breaking of Colorado law, he should not be in a position to either make or enforce our laws.”

It’s a big deal, folks. And it should be.

—–

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

Yesterday, the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate gave initial passage to Senate Bill 16-113, legislation that would repeal the 2013 15-round limit on firearm magazine capacity. After passing the Senate, the bill awaits certain death in the Democratic-controlled House, but the perennial repeal attempts of the 2013 gun bills are still as much of a rallying point as General Assembly Republicans get these days–except for abortion, of course, and with election season fast approaching you won’t be hearing much about that going forward.

The debate yesterday over Senate Bill 113 could become memorable in another way, however, after remarks by former Weld County Sheriff-cum Sen. John Cooke of Greeley sparked outrage from gun safety advocates. Here’s the audio, we’ll post video shortly:

COOKE: The good Senator from Castle Rock, mentioned, uh, if you’re law enforcement or in the military you can still get ’em, well, which is true. But what I tell my people is go to Wyoming! You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal. [Pols emphasis]

What happened here, as you can read very plainly above, is a Colorado lawmaker–indeed a lawmaker who was most recently a law enforcement officer–happily describing from the well of the Colorado Senate how he encourages other people to break Colorado law. Yes, it’s true that high-capacity magazines are available in Wyoming. So are, for example, illegal fireworks.

We’re pretty sure Cooke did not encourage people to “go to Wyoming” for their fireworks as Weld County Sheriff.

It’s possible that today’s politics have gone so far off the rails that nothing can shock the conscience anymore, but we are legitimately dismayed to see once again a Colorado lawmaker legitimize breaking Colorado law. We have to believe there was a time in history when that was not okay–when lawmakers, even when they disagreed with the law of the land, stood for the rule of law, and would never undermine the sanctity of the law for their own politics. Attempting to repeal a law you don’t like is fine. As a sworn lawmaker, telling your constituents not just that it’s okay but how to break the law is not acceptable behavior.

Make no mistake: this is not Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience, folks. This is George Wallace promising “segregation forever” as Governor of Alabama. It’s really important to understand that distinction. When Cooke admitted to doing was deeply wrong, and an affront to the most basic responsibilities of any lawmaker.

If you don’t agree, we’d say you should probably not be a lawmaker.

Phillips Family Blasts Bernie Sanders on Gun Immunity Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

We’ve noted several times in the last few years the sad story of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was murdered in the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora. After the Aurora theater massacre, the Phillipses sued online sellers of ammunition and body armor that the killer used to obtain thousands of rounds of ammunition, a high-capacity magazine, and body armor.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their suit–and under the terms of both state and federal laws shielding weapons dealers from liability for harm caused by their products, they were ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the ammunition dealers. Their story has provoked sympathy and some national press, though very little interest from local media.

But as 9NEWS reports today, the Phillips family is gaining visibility through the Democratic presidential primary–calling out pro-gun Sen. Bernie Sanders for his vote in favor of the federal law that helped ensnare them:

As the Democratic primary race turns to New York, where the gun issue looms large, Clinton will seize upon their story and those like it. The Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi, died in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Lucky Gunner was shielded from prosecution under a 2005 law that grants gun makers and sellers immunity from prosecution for crimes committed with their products. Sanders voted for the law, though he’s recently wavered over whether he supports it.

“We don’t have that much money to pay them, and they can take our house,” Phillips told USA TODAY. “Right now we’re living in a trailer traveling and speaking around the country trying to get people to understand how egregious this law is.”

“I don’t think he had any idea of the repercussions this law would cause,” Phillips said of Sanders. “I would like Bernie Sanders to at least apologize to us for the heartache this has caused.” [Pols emphasis]

After so many mass shooting events in recent years including the Aurora theater massacre, there’s no question that the debate over gun safety laws has shifted since 2005–at least within the Democratic coalition, where “pro-gun” holdouts like Sanders have had a harder time justifying their recalcitrance as victims and advocates have cried out for justice.

Regardless of who you support in the Democratic primary, you can’t help but feel sympathy for the Phillips family and their plight as we have since long before they became an issue in this race. Their political interest certainly can be justified by this law, which Sanders supported and has severely impacted their family as they sought justice in the wake of great tragedy.

And if we didn’t acknowledge what they’re going through, we would be playing politics.