Sen. John Morse is not backing down after gun-rights activists gathered double the amount of signatures needed to trigger his recall -- the first recall election in Colorado state history -- in response to his support of some of the year's strictest gun control measures.
But Morse responded to the recall effort with defiance. “[W]e had 20 6-year-olds shot in the face, and we have the other side arguing we should do nothing, and I’m sorry, that doesn’t cut it," Morse said in response to the recall effort to the Associated Press referring to the 2012's Connecticut school shooting.
On Monday, a gun rights group, the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, delivered a petition with more than 16,000 signatures (they only needed around 7,000) to the Secretary of State's office asking to recall Senate President Morse for his support of a gun control package that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law earlier this year including expanded background checks to include all private gun sales and transfers and a 15-round limit on ammunition magazines.
Morse also backed a measure that would hold gun manufacturers and sellers legally liable in some cases for damage caused by their weapons, however he eventually dropped the bill when it appeared that it didn't have the votes in the Senate to pass.
Assuming the petition signatures are deemed valid by the Secretary of State, Morse says he will not resign and says that even if he loses his seat the gun control measures were too important to dodge in the wake of 2012's Aurora theater massacre and the Sandy Hook shooting in Conn. “Keeping Coloradans safe from gun violence is very worth your political career," Morse said.
If the signatures are verified, the recall election will happen sometime between August 23 and October 23 of this year.
The AP reported that the National Rifle Association got involved with the recall effort and sent a political mailer saying it was coordinating the effort with local groups, however local recall petitioners denied that the NRA was involved in any way.
"I ran this campaign. The NRA did not run this campaign," said Rob Harris, organizer of the recall effort, to the AP. "We the people are making a stand against the people who refused to represent their constituents."
A Morse-supporter group called A Whole Lot of People for John Morse claims that many of the petition signatures gathered were obtained fraudulently and that outside interest groups paid workers to gather signatures, CBS News reported.
According to the Gazette, since the recall effort was started, it has felt like election season for Morse's district with signature gatherers, radio ads, robocalls, polls and a total of almost $40,000 raised for both supporters and opponents of Morse.
Sen. Morse was recently even asked to sign the petition to recall himself at a local supermarket, 9News reported. "I said no, really, I am John Morse. And I pulled out my wallet and showed my driver's license so that he could see that I wasn't making it up," Morse said.
Morse told KDVR that he understands that his recall is only partially about him, and that it's also symbolic. "It's a litmus test," Morse said and added that he believes the success or failure of the recall effort will be interpreted as a referendum on gun control. “There doesn’t seem to be any question that money’s coming from outside the state to say, look, if you do this, we can take out the Senate president -- we can take out anyone across the entire country if you decide to implement common-sense gun legislation.”
Secretary of State Scott Gessler has 15 business days to determine if the more than 16,000 signatures are indeed valid, and if they are, this will be the first time in history that a Colorado lawmaker has faced a recall vote since the state adopted the recall in 1912, the AP reports. The special election will ask if Morse should be recalled, and if so, who should replace him.