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Volunteers Show The Way Ahead

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A September 26 article on the Huffington Post website—the online home away from home
of some of the most relentless anti-gun activists in our country—summed it up almost perfectly, “The first recall election in Colorado’s history on Tuesday marked a stunning victory for the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists, with the ouster of two Democrats—Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo).”

Both Colorado politicians had voted for the state’s new ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and its new requirement that any transfer of a firearm—including even an overnight loan to a family member or close friend—require a criminal background check and another background check when the firearm is returned to its owner. Giron had co-sponsored the background check legislation, and supported legislation that would have imposed a fee on such transfers, which Morse also supported. Morse had further alienated Colorado gun owners by equating gun control with “cleansing a sickness from our souls.”

The Huffington Post article was right that the ouster of those anti-gun politicians was “stunning.” Though a majority of voters in Pueblo and Colorado Springs apparently would disagree with the use of the word “modest” to describe the laws and other legislation that Morse and Giron supported, an article in the Colorado Independent otherwise nailed it on the head, saying “Gun-rights advocates and conservative voters [in Colorado Springs] and in Pueblo sent a shock wave across the state and nation Tuesday when they succeeded in recalling two state senators who supported modest gun-control measures passed last spring.”

But the Huffington Post article was wrong about one thing. While the recall victory was a win for the NRA, it was a far more important victory for the individual Coloradans who, having been pushed beyond their limits, signed the recall petitions, made the phone calls, went door-to-door in their neighborhoods and contributed their time and energies in many other ways to make the recall effort a success.

As one observer put it, the real credit for defeating Morse and Giron, the latter by 12 percentage points, belongs to “the voters of Colorado Springs and Pueblo—including Democrats, Independents and Republicans—who decided that they were tired of out-of-touch politicians that put the interests of radical, out-of-state special interests ahead of the needs and priorities of Colorado families and our local communities. ... This stunning victory was made possible by each and every volunteer who helped circulate petitions, who made phone calls, who made a donation and who encouraged their friends and neighbors to vote ‘yes’ on the recall.”

Adding to the “stun” factor, those volunteers also achieved their victory over substantial odds. Meddlesome New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other gun control supporters spent more than $3 million trying to thwart the recall effort, at least six times the amount raised by recall supporters. That fact alone should put to rest the anti-gun movement’s worn-out lie that the nation’s gun laws still largely respect Second Amendment rights because they are bought and paid for out of the supposedly bottomless pockets of the so-called “gun lobby.”

The ouster of Morse and Giron followed another set of votes that sent shock waves into the anti-gun movement: the defeat, in the United States Senate in April, of the gun control package put together by Vice President Joe Biden on President Obama’s behalf. The recall votes and the U.S. Senate votes warrant comparison, because in both instances the Second Amendment’s adversaries believed, or at least pretended to believe, that their victories over us were certain.

Gun control supporters believed Morse would probably survive the recall vote and that Giron certainly would, given the demographics of her district. In fact, in the months leading up to the election, Giron was so confident that she glibly predicted that Bloomberg’s anti-gun group’s existence was on the line. “For Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG),” she said, “if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up.” Giron probably knows as well as anyone that this defeat will not likely be the end of MAIG, but her willingness to speak in such terms betrayed her arrogant belief that defeat was not a real possibility. 

With similar confidence, Obama said in December that it was “encouraging” to see that a cross-section of Americans had come around to his way of thinking on gun control, or at least so he wanted people to believe. And even after the Senate rejected the legislation he supported—proposing to ban many semi-automatic firearms like the ar-15, to ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, regardless of the gun for which they are designed, and to require a criminal background check to privately sell a firearm from a personal collection—Obama kept up the pretense that his agenda would eventually become law. “We’re going to have to change,” he said. “I believe we’re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right.”

Belief in his own intellectual superiority has been Obama’s style throughout his political career. On “Super Tuesday” in February 2008, for example, with the outcome of that year’s presidential election still in doubt, candidate Obama arrogantly told his adoring followers, “We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.” Whatever the occasion, Americans can be sure that Obama will put himself front and center.

In September, President Obama shamefully used the memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard tragedy as a platform upon which to talk about himself—using the words “I” or “I’m” a dozen times—and to criticize the country the victims of that crime had loyally served. In calling for the U.S. to pass gun laws similar to those in Australia or Great Britain, he insisted, “What’s different in America is it’s easy to get your hands on a gun. Well,” he said, “I cannot accept that.” Again referring to gun control, he added, “It may not happen tomorrow and it may not happen next week, it may not happen next month, but it will happen.”

The lesson that the Colorado recall holds for all NRA members—those at NRA Headquarters and the 5 million other NRA members for whom we work—is that our success depends upon going the extra mile to stand for what we believe in, to support the political candidates and elected officials who wage our battles in Congress and in the state legislatures, and to encourage other gun owners to join our cause.

If there is anything this year’s debate over gun control has made clear, it is that the Second Amendment’s adversaries are highly motivated, very well-funded and won’t quit. As U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said after the Senate rejected Obama’s gun control package, “It might be inconceivable to the NRA that [more gun control] might happen, [but] it’s inevitable to us. ... We’re just not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

We must keep that lesson in mind going into the 2014 mid-term elections, as well as the 2016 presidential contest. Our roadmap for success is to do what folks did in Pueblo and Colorado Springs in September—mobilize and motivate. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations of Americans to do no less. 

Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

Former NRA-ILA Executive Director

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Chris W. Cox served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, until 2019. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversaw eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.