Published: June 19, 2014
Gov. John Hickenlooper's counterproductive gun laws haunt him. They are expensive and real. They have cost Coloradans good jobs. They reflect values of New York's former celebrity mayor, not Colorado traditions and values shared on the left and right. The governor's charm frequently serves him well, but it can't undo laws that have divided his state.
The governor alone signed the notorious gun bills into law. He alone chose to counter wishes of nearly all county sheriffs, who collectively followed through on a threat to seek judicial relief from the laws. He alone signed on the dotted line, knowing his autograph would run off a major employer - Magpul Industries - along with 200 jobs and an $80 million annual contribution to the state's economy.
The governor alone signed a gun magazine ban that didn't have the support of one Republican in the Senate or House. Not one. His divisively partisan decisions on this issue fueled recalls of three Democratic senators, two from heavily Democratic districts, who lost their jobs.
None of this was a misunderstanding. It involved no miscommunication. The governor boldly took matters into his hands and must own the political fallout.
That's why Colorado sheriffs weren't buying it when the governor tried glossing over the controversy while speaking at their biannual meeting in Aspen last week as reported by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels. The Post also reported that Hickenlooper told the sheriffs he was unaware they wanted to speak with him about the gun bills before it was too late and he had already signed them. Oh, right.
It's impossible to believe. Sheriffs made headlines for pleading with legislators to drop the bills. They organized and requested vetoes of the bills. They questioned the legality of the proposed laws and said at least one would be impossible to enforce. They said anything that makes guns and accessories harder to buy, sell and trade reduces public safety in rural areas with long emergency response times. It was a clear professional mandate. One could hardly pick up a paper, listen to radio or turn on a TV without knowing about it.
The Post also reported Hikenlooper told the sheriffs he regretted not having all the facts about the bills before turning them into laws. It's hard to believe, but even worse if true. No governor should create a law without all the facts.
And there was: Hickenlooper claimed he never spoke with then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the bills, trying to counter critics who say the mayor influenced the governor.
News aggregator Complete Colorado was quick to prove Hickenlooper wrong. It presented phone records linking Hickenlooper and Bloomberg and interviews that contradicted the governor's statement.
Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eric Brown, conceded the governor misspoke when he denied speaking with Bloomberg - a multibillionaire who championed the laws and later bankrolled efforts to stop Senate recalls.
The governor's failed attempt to appease Colorado sheriffs has gone viral on Facebook and other social networks, reigniting a hot issue that had been cooling since last fall.
Hickenlooper's premeditated decision to dis law enforcement and 100 percent of Republican legislators - sending Colorado jobs to Texas and Wyoming - has been his biggest mistake.
Our talented and affable governor has done a lot right. But he can't make the political fiasco of his gun laws disappear by blaming confusion and miscommunication. Just own it, governor. Millions of Coloradans will disagree with your position, but they'll respect you for standing by your true convictions.