Unfortunately, we should expect recall campaigns to be a more common strategy in the politics of gun control. Eighteen states currently have laws that allow the recall of elected officials; if recall efforts prove fruitful, look for conservatives to attempt to pass recall laws in other states.
If that happens, politicians will have more to fear in applying common sense thinking to a public health and safety issues. Tread carelessly on some group’s hot button issue, and you will have a target on your back. And the people taking potshots will not just be constituents, but motivated and deep-pocketed adversaries from all over the country.
As a consequence, gun control legislation will need to be more carefully conceived, it will have to be constantly defended, and that the constituency for it will need to be motivated and vigilant against backlash.
A large part of the impetus for the Colorado gun legislation (and perhaps other laws around the country) was the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Morse pointed to that motivation after his recall defeat. “We can’t continue to bury our children,” he said.
Surely, that’s a sentiment even those who voted for his recall could agree with. But a disconnect remains — between what current law permits (and new laws could reasonably prevent) and the question of rights and responsibilities. That’s where the hard work needs to begin.
Gun ownership is most certainly a right, guaranteed under the Second Amendment. But it also comes with responsibilities. Background checks, limits to rounds and other regulations can have positive effects on public safety. Yet, time and again, opponents successfully present these measures as an unfair burden to lawful gun owners.
In Colorado, many county sheriffs (who are elected officials) fought vigorously against the new legislation. They claimed that it was unenforceable and that it targeted the wrong people — certainly a problem, if true. The influence and esteem of the sheriffs probably played a big role in the recall votes. Whether their opinions on the legislation reflected valid concerns, however, or rather their own libertarian preconceptions, is a question for debate.