“Militia Class” At Pueblo County Middle School?

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

A reader forwarded us this rather alarming story from KRDO-13 out of Pueblo County yesterday, about a course offered to middle school students in Colorado City:

“It’s a lot of guns to have in a school, especially because you don’t have this many just at your house or something,” 8th grade student Courtney Proctor said.

[Jim] Heath, a state coordinator of Project Appleseed, brought the three day program to Craver Middle School. The course aims to teach people across the country how to fire weapons accurately and safely, with a foundation of American history…

Volunteers from Project Appleseed and the NRA worked with the students to eliminate the element of fear associated with guns.

At first blush, a course in gun safety and marksmanship doesn’t seem that out of place, especially in a small-town setting like Colorado City. In today’s climate of paranoia over even the slightest perception of being “anti-gun,” a public school’s course on gun safety in a small Colorado town is not something big-city Democrats would want to take the political risk of meddling with.

"Redcoat" Appleseed silhouette targets.

“Redcoat” Appleseed silhouette targets.

The problem is, if you look into this “Project Appleseed,” as the New York Times did a few years ago, there seems to be a lot more going on here than “gun safety.”

So far Appleseed has taught 25,000 people to shoot; 7,000 more will learn by the end of this year. Its instructors teach this skill not for the purpose of hunting or sport. [Pols emphasis] They see marksmanship as fundamental to Americans’ ability to defend their liberty, whether against foreigners or the agents of a (hypothetical) tyrannical government. Appleseed frames this activity as being somewhere between a historical re-enactment and a viable last resort…

Inside the Appleseed Project, the question of where an armed citizenry should draw this line remains open. [Pols emphasis] Later that week, as he sipped a Coke at a nearby McDonald’s, [founder Jim] Dailey flirted with an answer. “If you ever have to reach for your guns, you’ve lost before you started,” he said, and then doubled back. “Now, there are probably some narrow, hypothetical exceptions to that. Like if somebody in the government said, ‘We’re taking over the country.’ You might find there’d be a spontaneous. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what it would be. And to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t want to see it.”

…Dailey’s frustration with the government peaked during the 1990s after the fatal conflicts at Ruby Ridge and Waco. “Uncle Sam told 76 Americans to come out of their own house, lay down their arms and spread-eagle on the ground,” he says of Waco. “Does that sound to you like the sovereignty of the individual?” At that time, growing restive, he bought more than half a million pounds of rifle stocks at an army-surplus auction. He named his new venture “Fred’s,” after his dog, and wrote indictments of the Clintons and the “New World Order” that reached 94,000 readers. As the radical right gathered steam in the ’90s, Dailey’s anger fixated on the United Nations, which he saw as a metagovernment bent on covertly undermining American sovereignty. [Pols emphasis]

The Waco siege.

The Waco siege.

As you can see, Project Appleseed has motives, ulterior or not, that extend distantly beyond the stated goal of “eliminating the element of fear” about guns. In the photo you see above right from the 8th grade public school classroom the indoor portion of this course was taught in, there’s a list of grievances presumably shared by American colonists–including taxes, religious freedom, and “taking rifles away.” But to the founder of Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War is not some remote history lesson.

It’s something they train the kids to fight. And that is a dubious thing indeed to teach in a public school.

Regarding Sen. Tim Neville’s “Gun Giveaway”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jane Dougherty.

Jane Dougherty.

Colorado State Senator Tim Neville is promoting a gun give away to gin up support for his U.S. Senate campaign. The gun he is using to draw caucus goers is the AR-15 – the semi-automatic civilian version of the military M-16. There is much debate about whether the AR-15 is an “assault rifle” or a “sporting rifle.” Tim Neville tells us that “he believes the AR-15 is a great weapon,” and that people in Colorado are “pretty excited about it.” It is not hard to see based on Senator Neville’s legislative record that he is a gun extremist. Neville is a Second Amendment absolutist, championing guns for everyone, everywhere.

The idea of a sitting Colorado legislator using a powerful and deadly weapon to promote his candidacy is repulsive. I guess either Senator Neville is tone deaf or completely callous to the fact that there have been multiple shootings here in Colorado where the AR-15 has been used to take innocent lives. In the Aurora Theater shooting, 12 lives were taken and 70 others wounded by a depraved gunman with an AR-15. In the Colorado Springs shootings this past fall, the AR-15 was the openly carried gun that killed three innocent victims, and a similar weapon was used in the Planned Parenthood shooting taking the lives of three including a police officer, and injuring nine others including five police officers.

When I first learned of Senator Neville’s gun give away I was physically sickened. This is the gun that took my sister Mary Sherlach’s life at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This gun is not a toy to be dangled before constituents. I wonder if the Senator has given any thought to what could happen if the gun he is giving away fell into the hands of a dangerous person.

Using a deadly weapon for political gain is reprehensible. Is this the message a candidate for U.S. Senate should be sending in a state that has been torn apart by so much gun violence? I think not and I hope the voters of Colorado will agree.

What The Hell Is Cynthia Coffman Thinking?!

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports, GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman had a bizarre “Twitter meltdown” last week following the interview of the mother of Dylan Klebold, of one of the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting:

Ted Zocco-Hochhalter — father of a student who was paralyzed in the 1999 rampage — didn’t know what he’d feel when he learned that Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, was coming forward after 17 years to tell her family’s story.

Ire? Disgust? Outrage?

After having watched Sue Klebold’s interview, Zocco-Hochhalter’s response was yes to all of the above – though not toward Sue Klebold, he notes, but rather toward Coffman for weighing in with comments he describes as “incredibly ignorant and insensitive.”

Here are the Tweets AG Coffman fired off after Sue Klebold’s interview aired:

To which the father of Columbine victim Anne Marie Hochhalter says:

Nonsense, counters Zocco-Hochhalter, who lauds Sue Klebold for her candor about the guilt and responsibility she feels about the shootings her son helped carry out before he fatally turning his gun on himself. Sue Klebold spent much of her “20/20” interview acknowledging that she missed key signs of her son’s depression and urging families to learn how to spot kids’ mental health problems before desperation turns to violence. Those are the main points of her book, “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” the proceeds from which she’s donating to mental health causes.

“Here we have an Attorney General’s office publicly criticizing Sue Klebold for talking about mental illness as a factor in school shootings. That’s not only insulting to our intelligence, but it’s also flat-out wrong – showing a remarkable lack of knowledge and professionalism about the issue,” Zocco-Hochhalter tells The Independent.

Coffman’s reaction to ABC’s interview with Sue Klebold is very difficult to understand from just about any professional or even responsible point of view. Of course the story of how she missed warning signs that could have helped prevent the Columbine High School shootings should be told. Of course talking about mental illness is better than concealing it. And above all, seventeen years is long enough to wait to talk about it.

Isn’t it possible that telling her story could prevent another Columbine?

No one we have asked about this story has had a plausible theory for why Coffman would launch into this unprofessional outburst aginst Sue Klebold on her official Twitter account in response to a news magazine show interview. Coffman though her spokesman refused to answer questions, saying the Tweets “speak for themselves.”

That may be true, but they don’t say anything good about Cynthia Coffman.

Another Front Opens: Tom Sullivan Runs In SD-27


sullivanBig news out of Arapahoe County this morning, where Tom Sullivan, the father of an Aurora shooting victim and a frequent witness at the Colorado Capitol in support of gun safety legislation, is announcing his run for a Colorado Senate seat in SD-27–the seat now held by recently-appointed Sen. Jack Tate, opening an unexpectedly strong challenge in a district the one-seat Republican Senate majority most certainly cannot afford to lose.

From Sullivan’s press release:

Tom Sullivan, an Air Force veteran, recently retired postal worker, and long-time resident of Arapahoe County, launched his campaign for the Colorado State Senate seat in his home district today (SD-27) as a voice for struggling middle class families…

“I’m running for middle class families. Today you can work hard and not get ahead. We need an economy that works for everyone – not just the very wealthy and well connected,” said Sullivan. “My opponent has spent his political career siding with those at the very top. As your state senator, I promise to roll up my sleeves and get to work to create economy that rewards hard work and levels the playing field for middle class families,” Sullivan said, as he announced his entry into Colorado politics and the start of a campaign inspired by his personal experience and realization that working Coloradans need a stronger voice in government.

Sullivan, a private citizen, is nonetheless a familiar name and face to many Coloradans because his son Alex was one of the dozen people killed in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting while celebrating his 27th birthday with friends. In the wake of this personal tragedy, Sullivan became a vocal advocate — campaigning publicly for justice, victims’ rights, raising the minimum wage, equal pay, and paid parental leave.

Sullivan is running for the Colorado State Senate on his solid record of advocacy and action. The candidate promises: “My goal is to take my experiences and the things I have seen and been a part of and use it to make our community better. I believe that when we all stand together, we can be better together. I want to bring a voice of change and economic freedom to our community in Senate District 27 and for all Coloradans.”

Sullivan’s entry into this race is a very big deal, and could swing a district that might not otherwise be on the Democratic list of top targets. By contrast Sen. Jack Tate has no real advantage of incumbency being so recently appointed to the seat, and has liabilities that include sponsorship of last year’s defeated legislation jacking up interest rates on personal loans. As the father of an Aurora shooting victim, Sullivan has a powerful personal story to tell about his life since losing his son, and the stout defense of the 2013 gun safety laws he has led at the Capitol every year since.

With strong Democratic challengers emerging in state senate races across Colorado this year, what we’re seeing is a deliberate strategy to broaden the front against President Bill Cadman’s one-seat GOP Senate majority–providing a number of paths back to Democratic control of the chamber.

File this one at the top of the list.

GOP Already Caving On Scalia Stonewall? Watch Gardner

UPDATE #2: Sen. Cory Gardner’s comms director Alex Siciliano responds:

Apparently they missed this statement as you can see below. But to the larger point, we think we’ve figured out the trouble here, folks, and it’s pretty simple: Gardner’s “statement” means absolutely nothing. If the President sends the Senate an acceptable nominee, says Gardner, that nominee will be confirmed. As you know, that is how stuff already works per the Constitution. This could be a problem for Gardner’s friend Marco Rubio, who is on the presidential campaign trial right now assuring primary voters that Obama won’t get to pick Antonin Scalia’s replacement.

Then again, there is this whole other part in Gardner’s statement about waiting until the next President to replace Scalia because of what a bad guy Obama is–in fact that’s most of the statement. Might that be superceded by the brief aside about how the President could send them a nominee and that would be okay too? It seems like the answer could be a function of who Sen. Gardner is talking to at any given moment.

A series of statements from senior Republicans contradicted their own previously expressed views and seemed to question whether rank-and-file Republicans were completely on board with the plan from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to do nothing on a Supreme Court nominee this year and let the next president make the nomination.

If Mr. Siciliano or anyone ranking him would like to sort out exactly where Gardner stands as of this moment, it would be pretty easy to do! It’s worth noting that the GOP’s wall of opposition appears to be cracking all over, with lots of unsteady messaging as it does–so whatever you hear will most likely be subject to change.

It’s not easy being “Con Man Cory.”

—–

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio summarizes Sen. Cory Gardner’s latest statement sent to them:

President can either propose nominee who can win over Senate or defer to the voters.

If you’re wondering what the problem is in that case, since that’s always the case, so are we.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

We’re beginning to detect what may be a softening in the Republican Party’s initial hard line after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend against any nomination of a replacement under President Barack Obama, based on the simple tautological fact that Obama is the worst Kenyan President in American history. You’ll recall that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s first response on the matter was not in any way in favor of compromise:

“Our country is at a crossroads, and whomever the Senate confirms to occupy the vacancy will have a significant impact on the direction of our country for years to come,” Gardner said.

He then highlighted the position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said immediately after Scalia’s death that his seat “should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Said Gardner: “I join Leader McConnell and several of my colleagues in allowing for the American people to play a role in the selection process when they cast their ballots in November.”

The response to the GOP’s apparent stonewalling of President Obama with almost a year left in his term in the last few days has not been positive, with editorial boards around the country angrily calling for Republicans to give Obama’s forthcoming nominee a fair hearing. Outside a radicalized Republican base that is always ready to go to engage in scorched-earth partisan war with Obama on any subject, the GOP’s pre-emptive rejection of any nominee just plain looks bad. It looks like a petty disregard of the process spelled out by the Constitution to deal with these situations out of partisan spite.

And a presidential election is just months away.

With that in mind, we do find this update from Colorado Public Radio today to be more than a little curious:

So what gives? Where’s cocky Cory from the weekend? Behind the scenes, Republicans may be realizing that they’ve overplayed their hand. Washington Post:

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) told Iowa radio reporters that he had not determined whether to have hearings before the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. “I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decision,” Grassley, the committee chairman, said.

Another member of the Judiciary panel, freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), noted that Republicans could not expect to have President Obama choose a nominee in the mold of Scalia, who for almost 30 years has been the ideological leader of the court’s conservative bloc, and must worry about being seen as merely obstructing the president… [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, this is not the hard line you hard from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–and it’s not what you heard from Gardner last weekend, either. Negotiations in Washington between the White House and the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate by all accounts continue, but they’re not happening in a vacuum. Voters are paying attention–and with Republicans defending some two dozen Senate seats this year, what voters think of this latest round of intransigence could count for a great deal on Election Day.

Whatever happens, Cory Gardner’s zigs and zags are an excellent canary in this coal mine.

Cadman’s “Do Your Job” Gaffe Becomes Nationwide News

Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Oops).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Oops).

Yesterday, GOP Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman shocked local political reporters by appearing to break with the national Republican party line of opposition to any Supreme Court nominee before President Barack Obama leaves office. Recapping the Denver Post’s John Frank’s blog post yesterday that kicked off much of the controversy:

Colorado’s top GOP state lawmaker has a message for Republican leaders in Washington who want to block any Supreme Court nomination to replace Antonin Scalia.

“Dear Congress, do your job,” said Senate President Bill Cadman.

The Colorado Springs Republican’s remarks align with more with the message from Democrats — and diverge from GOP leaders, including Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who want President Barack Obama to delay a nomination for the new president.

michael-jackson-moonwalk-1373308464But as the AP via the Aurora Sentinel reported later–after the initial wire story and others had gone to print–Cadman walked these comments back more or less wholesale:

Not long after calling reporters in to make that statement, he walked it back after it caused a firestorm of political controversy that went national. He later wanted to clarify his remarks, saying that he didn’t intend for the statement to make it sound as if he were cautioning the U.S. Senate to block a nominee from getting a nomination hearing…

The Associated Press, Denver Post and Durango Herald all ran similar stories about Cadman’s comments after the morning announcement.

Cadman later offered these remarks on the Colorado Republican Party website:

“I want to clarify the meaning of remarks made earlier today, which may lead to misunderstandings if taken out of context. I wasn’t misquoted by the reporter [Pols emphasis] but nothing I said should be interpreted as aligning me with Democrats, or against Republican colleagues, on the question of nominating and confirming a replacement for Justice Scalia…”

So what really happened here, you ask? There’s no way to know for sure, but there’s little ambiguity in Cadman’s original remarks to leave room for completely backpedaling them–as his second statement does with no real attempt to reconcile the two. That’s a pretty clear indicator that Cadman messed up very badly, and mostly likely got taken to the proverbial woodshed by his betters in Washington.

With Republicans in Washington, D.C. taking yet another heedless political risk by stonewalling against an Obama Supreme Court nominee with nearly a year left in his term, obviously the last thing they need is a high-ranking Republican lawmaker in the states telling them to “do their jobs.” The speed with which Senate President Cadman’s remarks yesterday spread took everyone by surprise, from fellow Republicans trying to spin their tenuous position to the gobsmacked reporters putting it out on the wire.

And no matter what he says now, Cadman’s original statement is what everyone will remember.

You Know It’s An Election Year When the AR-15 Giveaways Begin

Free assault rifles! It must be an election year.

Free assault rifles! It must be an election year.

Like candy hearts on Valentine’s Day or Jack-o-lanterns on Halloween, for Tea Party Republicans, nothing says “Election Year” like an AR-15 assault rifle!

Here’s the details from a fundraising email sent out yesterday from the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Tim Neville:

Because a strong turnout at the March 1st precinct caucuses are so important, to help get the word out about my campaign I’m holding a “March 1st Precinct Caucus AR-15 Giveaway.”

Of course, I know the anti-gun media may hate it.

And I know the political talking heads may sneer as they continue blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners for the acts of thugs and madmen.

But I am THE pro-gun, pro-Constitution candidate in this race for U.S. Senate — and I can’t think of a better way to get that word out before March 1st than by giving away a brand new AR-15.

Far be it for us to sneer at another assault rifle giveaway from a Republican candidate supported by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO). Nevertheless, we can’t help but point out the obvious here: If you’re really that worried that the govmint is gonna take your guns, perhaps you should stop giving them away. Will you be ready when the watermelons come for you?

We’ve seen this tactic in Colorado before, most recently when the RMGO backed Greg Brophy for Governor in 2014.

 

Ken Buck Replaces Brophy with Former AFP Lobbyist

Hide your watermelons, kids: Brophy is back in Colorado.

Hide your watermelons, kids: Greg Brophy is back in Colorado.

Yesterday we came across a short entry from Legistorm.com that caught our attention because of the name that was not included in the story. Take a look:

A longtime staff member for retired Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) has returned — again — to the Hill from a prolonged hiatus.

MacArthur “Mac” Zimmerman is the new chief of staff for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Col.) following a seven-year absence from Congress…

…Zimmerman waited until 2014 to return to politics, this time as a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity.

The story includes an interesting summation of Zimmerman’s strange political ride since his former boss, Rep. Tom Tancredo, retired from CD-6 in 2007. Not mentioned in the Legistorm article, however, is why Rep. Ken Buck was looking for a new Chief of Staff in the first place.

Former State Sen. Greg Brophy had an unsuccessful run for Governor in 2014, but he ended the year on a high note when the newly-elected Buck chose him to run his congressional office in Washington D.C. Brophy had served as Buck’s Chief of Staff ever since…until a few weeks ago when Buck let him know that he would be resigning. There was no press release from Buck’s office, and we apparently missed this late Friday Denver Post blog entry from Mark Matthews in which Brophy declines to talk about his next professional role (if one exists).

We don’t know why Buck made a change at the top of his staff, though it is certainly noteworthy that his new COS, Mac Zimmerman, had been working for the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. Buck has risen quickly in the Koch world, as we noted late last year when he was a featured speaker at a big Koch fundraising event in New York.

As for Brophy, we don’t know what he’s doing now…other than auditioning to be a “silencer lobbyist.” Trophy re-tweeted this message on Wednesday:

George Brauchler’s Ugly Consolation Prize

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the failure of Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler to win the death penalty phase of the trial of the Aurora theater mass murderer last year–a loss that contributed to Brauchler’s momentous decision to not run for the U.S. Senate this year–has provoked a controversial response from his Republican allies in the Colorado General Assembly.

And by controversial, we mean, well, bloodthirsty:

Currently it takes a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, but Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud wants to get that number down a little lower. Like, maybe nine. Or 10. Or maybe 11 jurors. But not all 12. That just makes executing someone in Colorado too hard, he says. He doesn’t like the idea that one lone holdout could spoil a death sentence.

“If the policy is that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of crimes, then a jury should not be composed of people who disagree with that basic point,” Lundberg told The Colorado Independent about his bill. Critics of the measure say it might not pass constitutional muster, and the bar shouldn’t be lowered for easing executions.

The senator will make the case for his legislation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Senate calendar.

The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen has more from the bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland:

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he is sponsoring the bill because he “wants to save lives” and have a penalty “that will cause the bad guy to think twice before they pull the trigger.”

…But critics peg the legislation — which could still be amended — as an effort to make it easier to obtain a death sentence.

“We require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all criminal charges to a unanimous jury,” said Colorado public defender Doug Wilson. “So (under the proposed bill) someone charged with shoplifting would get a unanimous jury, and yet when we decide we want to execute one of our citizens, we would leave it to a jury of less than 12.” [Pols emphasis]

At a time when capital punishment in the United States is under more scrutiny than at any point since it was relegalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and with so much controversy over the methods of execution in America and the possibility of wrongful executions, the idea of making it easier to execute people in any way seems radically counterintuitive. It’s even worse to think through the implications of executing someone over the objections of a sitting juror, which is apparently only possible in three states today. No matter how robbed Brauchler may feel over the three jurors who objected to imposing the death penalty in the Aurora shooting case, that is not something we think a majority of voters in Colorado would find morally conscionable.

In fact, this could get voters thinking about the death penalty in ways proponents won’t like at all.

Planned Parenthood Colorado Springs To Reopen, Finally

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

A press release today from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announces that the organization’s clinic in Colorado Springs, which was the target of a domestic terror attack last November by a self-proclaimed “warrior for the babies,” will reopen later this month:

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood health center will once again offer the full range of sexual and reproductive health services beginning on February 15th. The health center will provide services in a portion of the building while construction and repair work continues, and with limited space and schedule.

“On February 15th we will open the doors to serve our community just as we have done for generations. We are in awe of our healing and resilient colleagues in Colorado Springs. They are eager to get back to the mission they so deeply care about and the people they so compassionately care for. We welcome our team and our community back into the space with open arms and full hearts.”

The safety of patients and staff is our top priority. Planned Parenthood has in place strong and increased security measures to ensure that this health center — and all of Planned Parenthood buildings — are safe, supportive, welcoming environments for all people to get the high-­‐quality health care and education they need.

“We stand, stronger than ever, for the belief that every person in this community, this country, and around the world deserves access to reproductive health care without fear of harassment or violence. We promised in those first days after the tragedy to repair and reopen in Colorado Springs as soon as possible and we are making good on that promise.”

As the Colorado Springs Independent reported late last month, the city has been without the abortion services provided by this clinic since the attack in November, forcing patients looking for these services to drive long distances. Other medical services provided by Planned Parenthood, which in fact account for the overwhelming majority of services delivered, were picked up by other health providers in the area but not without delays and inconvenience for existing patients.

Nobody on either side wants to admit it, but the plain goal of accused murderer Robert Dear was to shut down the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs–and he succeeded with his actions in doing just that for two and a half months. When you consider this in the context of GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz’s explicit blaming of Planned Parenthood for the attack on its own clinic, the campaign against Planned Parenthood over the past year based on heavily edited undercover videos, and laws passed in other states and proposed annually in Colorado that would regulate most abortion clinics out of existence, a disturbing reality comes into focus.

By fiat or by violence, shutting down Planned Parenthood is the common goal.

And it can happen here. It did happen here.

GOP Senate candidate fears U.S. government could quickly turn on citizens

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Charles Ehler, who’s one of the dozen or so Republicans vying for the chance to run against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, shared this image on his Facebook page, with no explanation:

I called Ehler,  who is an Air Force Veteran, to find out how close he thinks our government is to rounding us up in boxcars–or if this was a joke. I mean, banning assault rifles leads to this?

Ehler: “It’s funny, and it’s not funny,” he told me, “because we could appear to be a beneveolent society, and as soon as the guns are gone, overnight, we could have a society like that. The force of government can turn on citizens almost at the blink of an eye. It’s called human nature. I have the force and you don’t.

Are we there? I don’t know that we’re there, but boy it could turn quickly. I really don’t think Americans need to find that out. We don’t need to create the conditions for it.”

(more…)

Gun Bills Head For Usual Fate, With One Improbable Maybe

Guns.

Guns.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly led by Sen. Tim Neville are pushing most of the usual slate of pro-gun bills in 2016, starting with another attempt to repeal the 15-round magazine limit passed in 2013:

Lawmakers in Colorado, including one state Senator who’s running for higher office, have introduced at least three measures to expand gun rights so far at the start of this year’s legislative session.

One of the bills, unsurprisingly, is aimed at rolling back a 2013 package of legislation that limited to 15 the amount of bullets a gun magazine could hold in Colorado. One of the sponsors in the Senate is Tim Neville of Jefferson County who is running in the crowded GOP primary field for U.S. Senate this year. The bill is pretty simple: It repeals the 2013 law, and “declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”

Another bill, also sponsored in part by Neville, would extend to the workplace the state’s ‘Make My Day’ law, which allows Coloradans to use deadly force against intruders in their own homes under certain circumstances. This new law would allow the same ability to “owners, managers, and employees of businesses.”

A third measure would scrap the permitting requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in Colorado.

The last of these bills mentioned, Senate Bill 16-017 eliminating additional permit requirements to carry concealed weapons, is up for a hearing tomorrow in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Interestingly, we have not seen a bill yet to repeal the requirement for background checks to be conducted for most gun purchases, something gun rights supporters has clamored loudly for but has always been the most popular of the 2013 reform measures. Today, polling in Colorado and nationally shows consistent and enduring support for expanding background checks, making Colorado a leader on the issue–so maybe this is a fight we won’t be having in Colorado in 2016.

The one proposal on which we might yet see some fireworks in the legislature this year would be a much-threatened but as-yet unintroduced bill to relax the magazine limit law from the current 15 maximum rounds to 30 rounds–a change that would allow the 30-round high-capacity mags considered “standard” on AR-15 assault rifles to be sold in Colorado once again. This idea was championed last year by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute as an incremental measure, but was summarily rejected by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their powerful bloc of legislators–who say any magazine limit “compromise” short of full repeal would be unacceptable.

The latest word as we understand it is that Democrats have no interest in either helping Caldara look good or defusing internal conflict between Republicans–which sharply reduces the possibility of the Democratic defections Caldara would need. That combined with the RMGO’s lockdown of its member legislators against raising the mag limit seems to indicate that no such end run is in the offing.

If that changes you’ll know, because nothing turns up the volume at the Capitol like a good squabble over guns.

The Agenda: Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Uterus

komen-planned-parenthood4-1The AP’s Kristen Wyatt has a great story up today on this year’s widely-anticipated battles in the Colorado legislature over–wait for it–abortion politics. After Cory Gardner successfully gummed this issue to death in 2014, it’s an issue that many Democrats are fatigued at the prospect of having to argue yet again.

Unfortunately, Republicans are fresh off a year of strident agitation on the issue, powered by the release of heavily edited undercover videos that falsely allege the organization “sold” fetal tissue samples used in medical research. The gap between perception and reality on this issue between the pro- and anti-choice factions has probably never been wider than it is today, and the rhetoric from anti-abortion activists in recent months is a major factor in incidents of violence like the domestic terror attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last November.

Conflict-weary Democrats, there will be no relief in 2016:

In the U.S. Senate race, Tim Neville, a Republican state senator from Littleton, kicked off his campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet by talking about abortion politics.

“When an organization like Planned Parenthood ignores the law, kills the unborn, sells their body parts for profit and we have both parties that can’t even come together to end this tragedy, we have an issue with leadership,” Neville told supporters, referencing videos taken by anti-abortion activists they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs…

The state’s senior senator won his last contest in large part because of reproductive rights. Bennet faced a conservative Tea Party favorite in 2010, one who appeared to be winning in polls until Democrats pounded him for supporting ballot measures to ban abortion by defining fertilized embryos as people, a concept described as “personhood.”

Bennet’s victory ensured that Democrats for the next five years would try tying Republicans to the “personhood” movement. The focus on reproductive rights grew so intense that during the 2014 Senate campaign, reporters and Republicans derisively dubbed former Sen. Mark Udall “Mark Uterus.” Udall was defeated for a second term by Republican Cory Gardner, who once supported a “personhood” measure but convincingly told the public he’d changed his mind.

The Udall defeat was seen by many as the last time Colorado Democrats would focus so heavily on reproductive rights. But events have dictated otherwise. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

As we have written about at length in this space, the 2014 defeat of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by Republican Cory Gardner left local Democrats extremely wary of using the choice issue as an electoral wedge. The rationale for this tends to boil down to criticism of Udall’s dour and negative message, which focused heavily on Gardner’s dishonesty on abortion without articulating his own positive case for re-election.

But that ignores something very important: Gardner’s successful and very forceful case that Republicans were “no threat to abortion rights.” Gardner’s after-the-fact disavowal of the “Personhood” abortion bans he had previously supported was used as cover for his continuing support for functionally equivalent abortion bans at the federal level. Longtime abortion opponent Rep. Mike Coffman used Planned Parenthood’s logo in an ad. Aware of the danger, the entire Republican media establishment from national pundits to local surrogates backed Gardner’s new image against all common sense–and became unlikely promoters of their party’s supposed “inability” to curtail abortion rights.

In only a year, this fiction has been completely undone by events. As it turned out, national anti-choice activists had no intention of slowing their campaign to ban abortion, and used the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood to ramp the anger on the religious right back up to a fever pitch. Sen. Cory Gardner’s inevitable votes against abortion within weeks of taking office could’t be spun. In 2016 just like last year, Republicans in the Colorado legislature have a long list of anti-abortion bills planned, starting with a bill to make abortion a felony “beginning at conception.”

For years, the Colorado GOP’s obsession with restricting abortion rights was a major political problem, with the cost measurable in punishing electoral defeats in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Gardner’s deceptive victory in 2014 might have changed the game in the long term, leaving Democrats unwilling to confront Republicans for fear of being pigeonholed in reverse by denial and feigned exasperation.

But today, 2014 looks like the exception–and Gardner has lulled the GOP into a very dangerous false security.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #3: The Rise of Tim Neville

Could this be the makeup of Colorado's U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) poses with state Sen. Tim Neville. Could this be the makeup of Colorado’s U.S. Senate delegation in 2016?

With the right algorithm, you can calculate almost anything correctly. Using the correct combination of data and logic, a statistical junkie can crunch numbers to make fairly-accurate predictions and analysis about everything from NFL games to business profits and losses.

Politics is different. You can gather all the data you want about politics, but it’s much more difficult to account for the power of perception. Power perceived is power achieved, which is a nice way to sum up one of the biggest political stories of 2015: The Rise of Tim Neville.

Neville served one year in the State Senate in 2012 (he was appointed by a vacancy committee) before reapportionment left him a legislator without a district. In 2014, Neville ran for Senate in SD-16, defeating Democratic incumbent Jeanne Nicholson in one of the most competitive races of the cycle – and helping Republicans capture a one-seat majority in the State Senate.

When the 2015 legislative session convened, Neville wielded the gavel as the Chair of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Technology Committee, but he was not selected by his caucus to an official leadership position. Neville lacked the seniority to earn one of the top six positions in the Senate caucus (President, President Pro Tempore, Majority Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Majority Caucus Chair, and Majority Whip), but that didn’t prevent him from taking control.

By the time the 2015 session came to an end, Neville still didn’t have a cool leadership title – but he had something better. Neville had become the true leader of the Republican caucus, in both chambers, and he had the juice to force Senate President Bill Cadman to grant a late-bill exception for a politically dubious piece of legislation requiring ultrasounds for women considering an abortion. As we wrote in this space in late April, Tim Neville is the Real Senate President:

Neville has emerged as the most prominent Republican of the 2015 legislative session, leading the charge on the controversial anti-vaxxer “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” among other lost causes. The Neville Nutters have been positioning themselves as something of a political “dynasty” in recent years, including Tim’s sons, Rep. Patrick Neville, and Joe Neville, a top lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (whose Executive Director, Dudley Brown, thinks he owns the Senate); as well as sister-in-law Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of the sponsors of SB-285 are also known backers of RMGO.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Senate President Bill Cadman does the bidding of state Sen. Tim Neville.

Thanks in part to his uncompromising right-wing beliefs, no Republican lawmaker made more headlines in 2015 than Neville. Senate President Bill Cadman is term-limited in 2016, and if Republicans are able to keep control of the State Senate, we wouldn’t bet against Neville becoming Senate President in title as well as action.

That is, of course, unless Neville finds himself in a different Senate body next January.

When Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) announced in June that he would not run for U.S. Senate in 2016, we suggested in this space that Neville could be an interesting candidate for the Republican Senate nomination and the right to take on incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

We have no idea whatsoever if Neville has even contemplated a U.S. Senate campaign, but it’s not difficult to see how you could make an argument for him here. Neville received more publicity than any other Republican in the Colorado legislature this year, and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2018. Neville has a good base of conservative support from the religious right and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), so he’s already well positioned to win a Republican Primary — and once you become the GOP nominee in a competitive state like Colorado, there’s always a chance that national groups take notice and decide to jump onboard. Look at this from Neville’s perspective…what’s the downside?

Lo and behold, by the end of the summer, Neville was moving confidently in the direction of the U.S. Senate at the same time “establishment” Republicans continued their frantic search for a candidate who matched up well against Bennet. While Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler was hemming and hawing about a potential Senate bid, Neville quietly announced a statewide “listening tour” to lay the groundwork for a U.S. Senate campaign of his own.

When Neville formally kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign in early January, he made it clear that he would be running as a right-wing Republican in right-wing Republican clothing, promising to focus his campaign on divisive issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville can do this because he has spent years cultivating relationships with hard-right groups and individuals who share his zeal and ideals. He is a less bombastic version of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has risen to the top tier of Republican Presidential candidates because he so openly defies any attempt at bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate.

Neville has strong support from the religious right and hardline conservatives (including Tea Party enthusiasts), and he has the financial backing of prominent anti-abortion and gun rights organizations. That may not be enough to win a General Election against Bennet, but it’s more than enough to capture the Republican nomination in the June Primary. The field of GOP candidates for Senate is rapidly increasing (we’re up to eight, at last count), but none of those candidates can lay out a strategy for getting past Neville first.

It would be difficult to name another Colorado politician who had a better year in 2015 than Tim Neville. If all goes according to plan, it will be difficult to name somoene who had a better year in 2016, either.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #4: Terror Attack at Planned Parenthood Clinic Rips Scab Off Abortion Politics

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

Alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear. Photo via CSPD

We wrote earlier in our 2015 top stories recap about Sen. Cory Gardner’s audacious flip-flop on abortion in the 2014 U.S. Senate election, and how the defense of Gardner by a large segment of Colorado’s political press and pundit corps was discredited in 2015 as Gardner repeatedly cast votes that made liars of his defenders. In Colorado politics as in Washington D.C., “mainstream” Republican abortion politics follow a predictable pattern of denial in election season, followed by an intense push to restrict abortion rights in off years.

2015 may be the last year this cycle is allowed to continue in Colorado.

After Gardner’s U.S. Senate victory in 2014, in which both his and by extension the GOP’s anti-abortion agenda was successfully downplayed, abortion figured centrally in Colorado politics in 2015. During the legislative session, Republican lawmakers once again introduced a bevy of anti-choice bills, from outright bans on abortion to the kinds of “regulations” that have had the effect of closing most abortion clinics in states like Texas. The summer-long release of heavily edited undercover videos from an anti-abortion group linked to Operation Rescue re-inflamed right-wing passions, and sent Republicans at every level of government in America into a fresh hyperbolic tizzy over the evils of the so-called “abortion industry.”

Anyone who actually believed the indignant downplaying of abortion in 2014 by Colorado Republicans could see in 2015’s contrived freakout stone-cold proof of the lie they were fed. But it was about to be cast in even sharper relief.

On November 27th of 2015, a man described as an ardently right-wing loner with a history of criminal trouble appeared at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and began shooting. Clinic workers quickly moved staff and patients behind locked doors. Responding police officers were shot, and an afternoon-long standoff ensued. Just before the 5PM newscasts began, Robert Dear surrendered to police just as they prepared to storm the clinic.

Robert Dear killed three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on November 27th, one police officer and two civilians. Five more police officers and four other civilians were shot but survived. During the standoff and immediately after Dear’s surrender, Republican lawmakers local and across the nation tried to disavow any connection between their politics and Dear’s killing spree—even claiming that Dear was a “transgendered leftist activist” based on a typographical error in his voter registration. Local Rep. Kit Roupe falsely claimed that Dear’s actions were “a failed bank robbery gone wild.”

roupebankrobberyWithin a few days, these denials of any connection between Dear and the extreme rhetoric against Planned Parenthood in recent months had completely fallen apart. Under questioning, Dear readily confessed to having targeted the clinic, claiming his motivation was “no more baby parts.” Dear announced at his arraignment hearing that he is a “warrior for the babies,” and proudly proclaimed his (lack of) guilt. Subsequent interviews with neighbors and associates made it clear that Dear was a radicalized right-wing domestic terrorist who knew exactly what he was doing and why.

Dear’s terror attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs threw the anti-abortion right wing that had previously been riding high on the strength of the undercover video campaign against the organization into chaos. While nobody should consider Republican anti-abortion rhetoric criminally responsible for Dear’s actions, the link between that rhetoric and Dear’s violence is undeniable. The claims in the undercover videos attacking Planned Parenthood have been thoroughly discredited with no acknowledgement from Republicans who spent most of 2015 demagoguing them. The extreme rhetoric used by Republicans to describe those misleading videos can easily be construed as incitement to violence.

But so far in 2016, the anti-Planned Parenthood crusade shows no signs of slowing—a potentially marked contrast to 2014, when Republicans sought to bury the issue through the election. Not even this terror attack on Planned Parenthood appears to have slowed the appetite among Colorado Republicans to attack abortion rights this year, even as their counterparts in Washington, D.C. nervously retrench. We expect to see the full range of anti-choice legislation, gratuitous “fact finding” hearings, and other public grandstands by Colorado Republicans to keep the abortion fight center stage through the 2016 elections.

If they keep to that course, the abortion issue could yet produce a greater electoral disaster for Colorado Republicans than anything that has come before. And in that event, the “triumph” of 2014’s campaign of deception on abortion will look like something else entirely.