Colorado voters attempting to recall two state lawmakers who helped pass a rash of draconian gun control laws that were rammed through the legislature now charge that Chicago-style thug tactics are being used to get them to recant their signatures.
"Everyone who signed a recall petition has received multiple phone calls, mailers and face- to-face visits in an attempt to get them to remove their name," said Victor Head, a plumber from Pueblo.
"Our small town is now facing Chicago thug tactics by [those] attempting to prevent us from exercising our rights to hold our elected officials accountable for their votes."
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Head is the chief of Pueblo Freedom and Rights and one of three sponsors of a recall petition against Democratic State Sen. Angela Giron for her gun control votes during the recent legislative session. Democrats who control both chambers pushed through a series of gun control measures despite widespread opposition from state residents and law enforcement officials.
The laws include a ban on any magazine that can be modified to hold more than 15 rounds. Since magazines have a removable plate on the bottom to ease in cleaning, the law can be interpreted as a ban on the sale of all magazines in the state. Additionally, the law prohibits the simple act of handing a magazine or firearm to a person to assist with clearing a jam, calling it an illegal transfer.
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The laws have been challenged in court by the majority of the state's sheriffs, who call them unconstitutional and unenforceable.
After passage of the laws, residents began a recall movements against four legislators who supported the gun control laws. Voters were able to gather sufficient signatures for recall elections against Senate President John Morse and Giron.
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During the signature gathering process, Colorado Recall Watch, a group dedicated to fighting the recall against Morse, placed a robocall to Colorado Springs residents claiming that the effort were being spearheaded by outside groups.
"Wealthy special interest groups have launched efforts to recall dedicated public servants across Colorado," the website says.
Head says the claim that the recall is anything but a grass roots effort is a complete fabrication.
"No one is out-of-state. I'm sitting in my house. … I was born and raised in this town. All of us on the petition grew up in the area, and everyone involved in this process are long-term residents. Of a total of $25,000 in support we have raised, maybe $1,000 has come from out of state."
A review of Pueblo United For Angela, a committee supporting Giron in the recall, reveals the group is getting money from big donors and outside interests.
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The Washington, D.C.- based Sixteen Thirty Fund has given $35,000 to help Giron fight the recall while Citizens for Integrity and Mainstream Colorado, both Denver-based organizations, donated $20,000 and $15,000 respectively. Additionally, the American Federation of State, Federal and Municipal Employees union, based in Washington, has contributed $3,500.
The robocall by Colorado Recall Watch suggested that signatures gatherers were criminals and encouraged residents to demand they leave their property if they come to the door. The message even suggested residents call the police on the signature gatherers.
"Criminals, convicted of forgery, fraud and even sexual assault – if they are not already, these workers will be in your neighborhood soon," the alert says.
Despite the tactics, petition gatherers were able to gather enough signatures to have a recall election against Morse and Giron. However, after the signatures were turned into Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office, petition signers found themselves the subject of a series of intimidating tactics attempting to get them to recant their signatures for recalling Giron and Morse.
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"People who signed the petition received a phone call from a live person asking them if they wanted to remove their signatures from the petition," Head explained. "This was followed up by two different mailers which contained a postcard that people could send back asking for the removal of their signatures from the petition and then after that they sent people to go door-to-door to visit the people who signed the petition."
Head said the pressure by Giron supporters was approaching harassment.
"I had one woman who told me she had nine missed phone calls from Pueblo United For Angela while another woman said she had four phone calls and two door knocks in a single day," he said. "While they are not technically breaking any laws the constant follow-ups is almost borderline harassment."
Jim Elson, a voter who signed the petition against Giron, told the Pueblo Chieftain he was berated by a caller from Pueblo United For Angela.
"An individual called and asked if I remembered signing a petition pertaining to Senator Angela Giron. Of course I remember signing that petition," Elson said. "He laughed at me and said, 'Well, do you know you signed a petition that contained false and fictitious information?' He then went on to say that I didn't know what I was signing.
"Why do you call me at home and berate me and tell me I'm so misinformed? It was so insulting," Elson continued.
The Coloradoan reported that voters who signed the petition to recall Morse have received similar phone calls.
However, so far it appears that the attempts to get voters to change their minds have not been successful. Andrew Cole, a spokesman for Gessler's office, said that to date no one has come forward requesting his or her name be removed from a recall petition.
Being unsuccessful in preventing enough voters from signing the recall petition and getting them to change their mind, Giron is now claiming the reason she is being targeted for recall is because of racism.
"I know it's partially about me being a Latina and being in this position of authority," Giron said.
Head says the claims of racism are simply par for the course for liberal groups.
"It's just ridiculous, when all else fails they play the race card. Anybody that's ever been here in Pueblo knows this not the case," Head said. "There's lots of Hispanics here, I'm part Hispanic. If anybody would take the time to read the other two names on the petition committee to recall Giron they would see that besides myself, my brother as well as my friend Ernest Mascarenas are all Hispanic."
While Democrats have tried to say recall signature gatherers are criminals, it appears to be a case of projection.
MediaTrackers reported a volunteer for Pueblo United For Angela was arrested while canvassing a neighborhood on a failure-to-appear warrant, which it claims could be related to a domestic violence charge. The volunteer, Elric Franco, was going door to door asking residents who signed the recall to rescind their signatures.
Franco was reportedly talking to a homeowner who had not signed the petition and was mistakenly trying to get him to remove his name. When the homeowner asked Franco why he was on his property, he allegedly said, "It's none of your business, you are not on the list, don't worry about it," before telling the homeowner to go back inside his house.
After feeling threatened, the homeowner called police, but before officers arrived, Franco's campaign coordinator arrived and began taking pictures of neighbors and the homeowner. She allegedly returned later with three men who were described as "thugs" who drove by while filming houses pointed out by the coordinator. They also reportedly took down license plate numbers of vehicles in the neighborhood.
After responding to challenges by Giron and Morse, Gessler's office sent a statement of sufficiency to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who under Colorado law must "without delay" set an election date between 30 and 60 days from now, which would place the election in August or September.
On Tuesday, attorneys for Morse and Giron went to court arguing that voters did not realize what they were signing, claiming among other things that the wording was not sufficiently clear because voters were asked if Morse and Giron should be recalled but never told voters an election would have to be held to do so.
"A petition form must inform unsophisticated as well as sophisticated voters who are considering whether or not to sign the petition," Democrat lawyer Mark Grusekin argued in his appeal of Gessler's decision.
Head said he believes the effort to portray Pueblo voters as ignorant and stupid will backfire on Giron.
The legislative debate over the gun control laws drew interesting comments from majority Democrats.
State Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, scolded a witness opposing one of the gun restrictions.
Amanda Collins, 27, of Reno, Nev., told her story of being assaulted and explained that had she been carrying a concealed weapon, the incident might have ended differently.
"I just want to say that, actually statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun," Hudak scolded. "And, chances are that if you would have had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you."
Hudak continued, speaking over the committee witness, "The Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence says that every one woman who used a handgun in self-defense, 83 here are killed by them."
Finally able to resume her testimony, Collins said, "Senator, you weren't there. I know without a doubt [the outcome would have been different with a gun].
"He already had a weapon," she told the meeting of the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. "He didn’t need mine."
A similar attitude was displayed by state Rep. Joe Salazar.
He said that a woman who feels threatened by rape on a college campus doesn't need to be armed, because she can use a call box to get help.
Salazar's statement came in a debate over a proposal to ban citizens possessing a concealed-carry permit from being armed on university campuses.
"It's why we have call boxes," said Salazar, "It's why we have safe zones, it's why we have the whistles. Because you just don't know who you're gonna be shooting at.
"And you don’t know if you feel like you're gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone's been following you around, or if you feel like you're in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody."
Perhaps the most surprising statement came from U.S. Rep. Diane DeGette, a Denver Democrat who displayed her perspective on gun magazines.
"I will tell you these are ammunition, they're bullets, so the people who have those now they're going to shoot them; so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot, and there won't be any more available," she said.
The Denver Post said DeGette didn't appear to understand that a firearm magazine can be reloaded with more bullets.
Additionally, the gun control issue in Colorado has been featured on major media outlets after a majority of the state's sheriffs have said that not only will they not enforce the new laws, but that they are actually suing the state over them.
"We have said these laws are unconstitutional and if we truly believe what we are saying then we need to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak," Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said. "These laws are an infringement on people's Second Amendment rights and we need to represent and stand up for the citizens who voted us into office."
State officials admitted they were doing the bidding of the White House. In February, Vice President Joe Biden flew to the state to strong-arm Democratic lawmakers who were feeling pressure from their constituents to vote against the bills.
"He (Biden) said it would send a strong message to the rest of the country that a Western state had passed gun-control bills," Tony Exhum, a Democratic lawmaker from Colorado Springs, told the Denver Post.
House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino, an open homosexual who also pursued a "civil unions" agenda this year, admitted the gun-control bills introduced by fellow Democrats had national implications.
"I was shocked that he called. He said he thought the bills could help them on a national level," Ferrandino said.