GLENDALE–The event was billed as “A Farewell to Arms,” but the estimated 5,000 gun-rights advocates who turned up Saturday at Infinity Park didn’t look like they were ready to turn over their weapons.
Instead, they fired off one last protest before the state’s newly passed gun-control laws take effect Monday by snapping up soon-to-be-illegal 30-round magazines, provided by Magpul Industries.
“We’ve come to stock up on our PMAGs, but we’re also here to send a loud, friggin’ clear message to the politicians of this state: Colorado belongs to us and not to [New York Mayor] Michael Bloomberg,” said Kelly Maher, spokeswoman for Free Colorado, which organized the “Freedom Festival.”
There were enthusiastic cheers as speakers urged gun-rights supporters to get behind efforts to challenge the Democratic state legislature, including a lawsuit, two recall efforts, and a petition drive for a constitutional amendment.
The highlight of the event came when a Magpul helicopter landed outside the field carrying boxes with 20,000 magazines. A line nearly a mile long snaked around the park as festival-goers queued up hours beforehand for free magazines given to the first 1,500 attendees.
The rest of the magazines were offered for sale at a discount. Organizers said proceeds from the sales will go toward the two recall drives aimed at ousting state Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs).
“We need your enthusiasm not just now, but we’ll need your enthusiasm for the next election, we’ll need your enthusiasm for the recall of John Morse, and we’ll need your support for the recall of Angela Giron,” said Brown as the helicopter approached. “Here come magazines! Democrats: Ha, ha, ha!”
The loudest boos were reserved for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who signed the three gun-control bills in March. The bills limit ammunition magazine capacity to 15 rounds; mandate background checks on all firearms sales and transfers, including temporary transfers, and require gun buyers to pay for their background checks.
Any magazines purchased before July 1 are exempt from the law.
“Did he take your call? You know whose call he took? He took a call from the mayor of New York City,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “I guarantee you Gov. Hickenlooper will listen to that when you bounce him out of office and bring freedom back to Colorado.”
Hickenlooper faces reelection in November 2014, and several Republicans have indicated interest in challenging him, including Brophy, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.
Dana Loesch, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host based in St. Louis, delivered the keynote speech after arriving in the Magpul helicopter, saying, “I’m here because I want to raise a little hell.”
She noted that Magpul officials are seeking to relocate the Erie-based company in response to the gun-control measures.
“I didn’t realize that you all were rolling in cash money over here in Colorado that the state legislature could just run off perfectly good business,” said Loesch. “They [legislators] are not the elite, they are the elect, and they can be un-elected and recalled.”
Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, one of 55 county sheriffs who have signed onto the lawsuit, insisted that some sections of the newly signed laws are impossible to enforce.
“When the legislators passed these laws, I think they fully expected us to lay down, roll over and surrender–well, let me tell you, that ain’t gonna happen,” said Cooke. “These laws are unconstitutional. These laws are unenforceable. These laws hinder our rights. They are knee-jerk reactions. So therefore, since they’re unenforceable, I will not enforce them.”
Several of those who attended the festival said they were still shocked by the state legislature’s crackdown on access to firearms, which came in response to two mass shootings in 2012.
“It’s sad to see this change because we’ve always been a gun-friendly state, a sportsmen’s state, and then we have people who weren’t even born here trying to change our identity,” said Steve Allison of Arvada. “I hope people who love Colorado will rally in the next election and turn this around.”