DENVER — Colorado voters appeared split Tuesday in an election to recall two state lawmakers who backed gun-control measures after last year’s mass shootings, with the Democratic Senate president struggling to keep his seat in a race seen as a measure of popular support for gun legislation.
Angered by new limits on ammunition magazines and expanded background checks, gun rights activists filed enough voter signatures for the recall elections — the first for state legislators since Colorado adopted the procedure in 1912.
With 84 percent of the projected vote counted, voters in Colorado Springs favored recalling Senate President John Morse by 52 percent to 48 percent. With just 4 percent of projected results in from Pueblo County, voters overwhelmingly favored retaining Sen. Angela Giron.
The recalls were seen as the latest chapter in the national debate over gun rights — and, for some, a warning to lawmakers in swing states who might contemplate gun restrictions. But gun rights activists’ efforts to force recall elections for two other Colorado Democrats failed this year.
Tuesday’s vote also exposed divisions between Colorado’s growing urban and suburban areas and its rural towns. Dozens of elected county sheriffs have sued to block the gun laws, and some activists are promoting a largely symbolic measure to secede from the state.
Morse recall organizer Timothy Knight said voters were upset that Colorado’s Democratic-majority legislature seemed more inclined to take its cues from the White House than its constituents. The gun laws passed this year with no Republican support.
“If the people had been listened to, these recalls wouldn’t be happening,” Knight said.
Both legislators voted for 15-round limits on ammunition magazines and for expanded background checks on private gun sales after the 2012 mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).
The National Rifle Association and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) lined up on opposite sides of the recalls.
Reported contributions to Morse and Giron totaled about $3 million, dwarfing the amount raised by gun activists who petitioned for the recall, though some independent groups did not have to report spending.
Hickenlooper initially rejected calls for stronger gun control laws after 12 people were killed and 70 injured in an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. The governor changed his mind right before the December Newtown massacre.