- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2013

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Located next to a tattoo parlor, Paul Paradis’ small gun shop doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of a sophisticated political machine.

On Monday, however, Colorado gun rights advocates plan to submit thousands of signatures demanding the recall of state Senate President John Morse, who helped push a sweeping package of gun control bills approved in March by the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Many of those petitions were signed at Paradise Sales under the watchful eye of Mr. Paradis, who says he was careful to check the eligibility of interested supporters on the secretary of state’s website before letting them sign.

“About 50 percent of the people who came in to sign the petition didn’t live in the district, but wanted to help,” said Mr. Paradis, one of three residents in Mr. Morse’s district who launched the recall. “There’s a real groundswell of support for this. They woke up a sleeping giant.”

The Morse recall effort is being followed nationally as dozens of states come under pressure to pass gun control laws in the wake of 2012 mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut. Leading the drive is Mayors Against Illegal Guns, founded by billionaire New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

“If you can take the Senate president out, then you can have a very chilling effect on gun legislation throughout the country,” Mr. Morse told KUSA-TV in Denver.

Colorado was the first Western state to tighten restrictions on firearms purchases, but the backlash against the Democrat-backed legislation has rocked the state. Two firearms manufacturers have announced their intention to relocate, while 55 of 62 county sheriffs have filed a lawsuit challenging a newly approved law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

Two Democrats have been targeted by recall drives: Mr. Morse of Colorado Springs and state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Signatures in the Giron recall are due June 10. Another two recall efforts fizzled shortly after they began.

Predictions are that the Morse recall is all but certain to qualify for the ballot, after which analysts anticipate a political dogfight featuring millions in campaign spending from national special-interest heavyweights.

“From what I hear, they’re going to have enough signatures to put Morse on the ballot, and then it becomes a battle of national groups,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “Morse is almost a bit player in all this. It’s going to be national behemoths squaring off against each other in the form of Bloomberg and the [National Rifle Association].”

Already, America Votes, a liberal issues committee, has donated $20,000 to the anti-recall group, A Whole Lot of People for John Morse. A local conservative organization, I Am Created Equal, has contributed about $14,000 to the recall drive.

The anti-Morse group needs only 7,178 valid signatures to place his name on the recall ballot, a task made easier in his conservative southern El Paso County district. Mr. Morse isn’t exactly untouchable: He won re-election in 2010 by just 340 votes over his Republican foe in a race that featured a Libertarian candidate who drew 1,320 votes.

If the recall appears imminent, the real question is whether party leaders will pressure him to resign in order to replace him with another Democrat. Mr. Morse has said he plans to fight for his seat no matter what.

“There are no second thoughts anywhere,” Mr. Morse said. “If I needed to pay with my political career to make Colorado a safer place from gun violence, that’s a small price to pay.”

The Giron recall effort has a higher bar to clear in the heavily Democratic district, but organizer Victor Head says Pueblo residents are fuming over the gun legislation. The campaign needs to collect 11,285 valid signatures to put Ms. Giron on the ballot.

“We’re doing really well. We’re right on track to meet our ultimate goal, which is 25 percent above what we need,” Mr. Head said. “We’ve got lots of bipartisan support for this. About 60 percent of the people signing the petition are Democrats, which is really interesting.”

He said the campaign recently used its last $3,000 to pay for six “Recall Giron” billboards. Meanwhile, Ms. Giron argued during a Saturday event featuring Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia that voters are only getting one side of the story from petition-gatherers.

“That’s kind of sad to know that they’re not given the facts,” Ms. Giron told KRDO-TV in Pueblo.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed three bills in March that restrict magazine capacity; mandate universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers, including temporary transfers, and require gun buyers to pay for their background checks.

The laws are slated to take effect July 1.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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