Angela Giron is a state senator from Colorado. She will leave the Senate next month, when her recall election opponent is sworn in.
President Obama has now addressed the seventh mass shooting of his presidency, and we certainly heard the weariness in his voice Monday as spoke about the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard: “It’s a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us. They’re patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.”
As a state legislator now branded by the word “recalled,” I can identify with that weariness. Gun legislation has stalled in Congress because lawmakers fear the fate I suffered — being targeted, voted out or recalled by extremist political activists because of views on firearms safety that dare challenge the gun lobby. The recall fight that my colleague, Colorado Senate President John Morse, and I lost demonstrated that no matter the cost of our political positions, common-sense gun-safety legislation is achievable. Colorado’s newest gun-safety laws have been in effect for months, and the recalls have no bearing on them. The legislation we helped pass proves that the gun lobby can be beaten.
Sen. Morse and I started the 2013 legislative session amid a constituent outcry to curb gun violence in our communities. The movie theater shooting in Aurora last summer and the Newtown massacre in Connecticut had brought guns to the forefront of our agenda. We passed laws that extended our state’s background-check system to include private sales, to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; limited ammunition magazines to 15 rounds; and made sure that domestic abusers aren’t allowed to buy or keep guns.
Each of these laws is already making Colorado safer. According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, 28 criminalshave been denied a firearm through a private sale in the first eight weeks of the expanded background-check law. That’s more than four criminals a week, when we know all too well that it takes only one person with a weapon to shatter a life, a family, a community.
These proposals were, and still are, supported by an majority of Colorado voters. But our experience here in Colorado has been that, while extremist groups have a hard time making their case to general-election voters, they have far more control in low-turnout special elections.
A good friend in Pueblo told me about the school drills her young children must endure after the Newtown massacre. Kindergartners crouch behind overturned tables while an adult knocks on the door, pretending to be an “active shooter.” She said she struggles to decide what is most absurd about this scenario: that a particleboard tabletop would protect her children from automatic gunfire, that a shooter would take the trouble to knock on the classroom door or that her 5-year-old son now uses phrases like “active shooter” in everyday conversation.
Those kinds of stories compelled my votes in favor of gun-safety legislation. Hosting multiple town halls, touring a gun show and accepting an invitation to go shooting with a women’s group helped me understand many of the concerns of gun enthusiasts. I even amended our legislation to further accommodate the giving of firearms as gifts within families. In the end, I don’t believe — and I don’t think any legislator, anywhere, believes — that it is better to teach children to use a table as a shield than to enact public policy to protect us all from gun violence.