It’s no Washington secret that lawmakers voting against the the nation’s powerful gun lobby will likely suffer the National Rifle Association’s wrath come election time. But, as evidenced in Colorado today, there can also be political consequences of voting with the NRA.
In large ads published in Wednesday’s Denver Post and Boulder Camera, Tom Mauser, the father of one of the students killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, takes Colorado’s Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to task for voting last week in support of the Thune amendment, which would have forced states to honor the concealed-carry permits issued by other states, even in cases when host-state laws would otherwise prevent the visiting gun owners from carrying firearms.
Both Udall and Bennet defended those votes in the local press by pointing out that Colorado already honors the right-to-carry permits of 27 other states. Udall issued a statement arguing that the Thune bill wouldn’t “raise the risk of unlawful gun smuggling or other criminal acts.” And Bennet’s statement reasoned that “any concealed-carry permit holder from another state must follow our criminal statutes, and that would have remained the law if the Thune amendment had passed.”
Critics of the Thune amendment, however, weren’t attacking the proposal on the grounds that it would have trumped state criminal law as to where or how a visitor could carry a weapon. (Bennet is right — it would not have). Rather, they were concerned because Thune’s bill would have trumped some state restrictions over whom could carry a firearm.
Mauser lays out how Thune would have scrapped some of Colorado’s eligibility laws. For example, Colorado law prevents anyone under the age of 21 from carrying a concealed weapon — a restriction that applies even to residents of the 27 states whose permits Colorado recognizes. But under Thune, Mauser notes, “18 year olds from out of state would have been able to carry a concealed weapon in our state, against our legislature’s express wishes.”
Mauser also points out that:
In Colorado, people convicted of serious juvenile offenses and certain misdemeanor crimes cannot possess or carry a gun. This is true even if they have a concealed carry permit from a state that has reciprocity with Colorado. The Thune Amendment would have overridden these Colorado laws and let serious juvenile offenders or dangerous misdemeanants legally possess firearms in our state.
“Senator Bennet and Senator Udall, did you take the time to understand the effects of the Thune Amendment?” Mauser asks.
Not that Udall and Bennet were the only Democrats to support the bill. Twenty Democrats voted in favor of the proposal, including three who cosponsored the measure. Some didn’t much like talking about their support. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for example, told reporters the day before the vote that he would support the bill. But asked to explain his position, Reid, who faces a tough reelection contest next year, bristled. “You asked me how I’m going to vote and I just told you. I’m not going to explain why I’m voting,” he said.
Such statements don’t help to dispel the accusations that many lawmakers are voting in fear of retribution from the powerful gun lobby, rather than in the best interests of their constituents.
“Colorado deserves Senators who will respect our state’s sovereignty and ability to make decisions about the safety of its citizens,” Mauser wrote. “We deserve Senators who will disregard special interests, and instead vote in the state’s interest.”