THE BLOG
03/09/2013 01:14 pm ET Updated May 09, 2013

Drone Filibuster Overtaken by Gun Debate in Colorado

Colorado hardly appeared to be drone-obsessed this week, which may seem odd if you consider the state's Libertarian heritage; the Libertarian Party was actually founded in Westminster, Colorado in 1971. You may also have heard friends of Rand Paul pointing with pride to the Drone filibuster as appealing to Libertarians across the country. However in Larimer, a Bush-Obama county in Colorado, Libertarians are far from rare, but seemed uninterested in Paul's theatrics. "We have a reader call-in line, where readers can give their opinions on any topic," says Jeff Stahla, Managing Editor of The Loveland News and Herald in Larimer. "There have been no calls that I have heard about Rand Paul's filibuster, or drones in general. Right now, the gun control issues in Colorado are sucking all the air out of the room and are front and center on every political mind in the state."

State lawmakers are debating legislation that could set a standard as the toughest guns laws passed by a Mountain West state. The reasoning is not hard to follow when you consider Columbine High School in 1999 and the Aurora movie theater shooting last July. "There are seven major bills that are addressing gun issues. They run the gamut. I would say probably the one that's a little bit more progressive than we've seen in many years would attach a liability to manufacturers and sellers if a gun is used in a crime."

In traveling across the state, I have found people who are not blindly jumping on either side of the issue. I have met many gun owners who want tougher laws and are NRA members, and they are far away from the NRA on the issue. However many are equally frustrated with hardliners on the other side of the debate who are not focused enough on mental health issues. "The way we treat the nation's mentally ill has not kept up with other healthcare initiatives that have occurred in the last 30 years," says Stahla. "That there's a lot more awareness of cancer and heart disease and all these other diseases, but we have not, in the same breadth, moved forward with funding for mental health treatment, which is a big part of the gun issue here. I think the people are frustrated by some of the disconnects between some of the gun control measures versus comparing them to the data of what really is occurring, at not only the mass shootings but also just in the lower-profile shootings nationwide. Whether the solutions that are being offered are solutions to identifiable problems that have occurred, or something that were taken out of the back of the trunk of an agenda that might be 20 or 30 years in the making. In other words, I hear a lot of frustration from my readers, asking 'Where's the science? Where's the data to back up new control measures versus what's actually occurring out on the street?"

You can't view gun control through the easy red-blue lens in Colorado, reflecting the purple wave in partisan logic in many corners of the state where both parties appear to be losing solid blocks of support. The emerging portrait indicates that Colorado will easily remain a quintessential swing state again in 2016. "There are many, many, many more people registering as Independents than as party members," asys Stahla. " And many members of both parties, switching to Independent status. That has made the primaries more interesting. I hear it more from my Republican friends who don't like the direction that their party is going, but they'll never be a Democrat. So they declare themselves Independent. But what that does is make it easier for marginal candidates to win the party's nomination. It's fascinating to me, just kind of in terms of where we're seeing our local politics go... Our candidates have gotten more conservative over the past decade. Actually, the National Review came out with the recent ranking of the most liberal and conservative senators. And Colorado's two Democratic senators were both between 40 and 50, the 40th or 45th most liberal. So in other words, very middle of the road. And what we're finding, is that the Democrats that are getting elected out here are tacking toward the middle to get that vote in the statewide races. However in the smaller districts, where there is less heterogenous voters, they don't have to do that. And so you're seeing, more stark division starting to come down to the local level in some places."

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