Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall’s votes against a federal assault weapons ban Wednesday should send a cold chill down the spine of every Democratic state legislator.
When it comes to firearms, neither Bennet nor Udall will ever be confused with Chuck Norris. Both are liberal Democrats who said earlier this year that they would support federal gun-control legislation.
Their about-face shows that they were paying attention to the popular uprising now rocking Colorado in reaction to the Democratic Party’s decision to ram a package of sweeping gun-control bills through the state legislature despite intense public opposition.
That Bennet and Udall were willing to buck their party, including the White House, on President Obama’s top 2013 legislative priority is the strongest sign yet that state Democrats just made a huge mistake.
Bennet and Udall sit atop of the Colorado Democratic Party’s food chain. Neither is seen as particularly vulnerable: Bennet won a tough election fight in 2010, but he doesn’t face the voters again until 2016. He’s also fabulously wealthy, meaning he can afford to offend gun-control and gun-rights backers alike.
Udall comes up for reelection in 2014, but he’s also the party’s golden boy, coasting to reelection during his House years without breaking a sweat. Republicans, who still don’t know who they’re going to run against him, have yet to really lay a glove on him.
In other words, they don’t exactly inhabit the same political universe as guys like state Rep. Mike McLachlan (D-Durango), who won his swing seat in November by less than 1,000 votes.
McLachlan is now one of a dozen Democrats in political hot water for voting in favor of the gun-control bills. Angry gun owners in his district are gathering signatures to force a recall election, but even if he survives a recall, his prospects for a second term aren’t looking especially promising.
The same goes for state Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), Evie Hudak (D-Lakewood) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs).
As everyone knows, gun-rights advocates mounted an enormous grassroots battle against the state’s legislative gun-control package. They turned out by the thousands for committee hearings, floor debates, rallies and protests. They flooded their Democratic representatives with emails. Most of the time, they were ignored.
Or so they thought.
While Democrats in Denver were assiduously sticking to their gun-control game plan, it turns out those in Washington were watching the drama unfold at the state capitol. Those hours spent waiting to testify before a committee, those days taken off work, those nights drawing up signs and calling friends–they may have made the difference in convincing the Senate to reject federal gun-control legislation.
It’s unfortunate that gun-control advocates couldn’t get their own state representatives to listen. But Cheap Seats thinks they may be listening now.