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.
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.