Published: August 15, 2013
It is 4:30 in the morning. My brother and I, ages 12 and 9 respectively, each grab our shotgun. We drive south with our dad to a maize field near Two Buttes reservoir. Soon after settling onto the freezing ground in a goose blind, a whispering of honks announces a tiny V shape approaching on the horizon. Soon the cacophony is deafening, as geese pass directly overhead.
So began my hunting career. Hunting has been an important part of my life and guns have always had a very limited purpose for me - hunting and sport.
I exercise great caution around guns, a value instilled by my father from my earliest hunting days. Carrying a gun is a right, but with that right comes responsibility. Early on I learned of the deadly consequences of mishandling guns. At age twelve I attended my first funeral, that of a friend who was shot accidentally by his young hunting companion who was climbing through a fence.
The purpose of guns has expanded dramatically from hunting and sport to self-defense and more recently and disturbingly to assault weapons. Colorado recently enacted House Bill (HB) 1224 placing reasonable limits on magazine size, necessary for the ever increasing lethal nature of weapons, and HB 1229 representing a moderate and reasonable effort to require background checks to block sales to irresponsible purchasers, such as felons.
Senator John Morse led this effort prompting a small but energized group of gun activists to bring a recall effort against him even though both bills reflect the will of the majority of his constituents.
HB 1224, limiting magazine size, was passed in part in response to the Aurora shooting on July 20, 2012 when James Holmes, using a Smith and Wesson M & P 15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100 round drum magazine, shot and killed 12 people and injured 70 more. Had his rifle not jammed after 45 shots, more deaths and injuries could have occurred. His assault rifle and his high capacity magazine were both banned earlier under the Federal Assault Weapon Ban which Congress passed in 1994. However, in 2004 due to the intense efforts of the NRA gun lobby, Congress let these laws expire. Assault weapons are not for hunting, nor self defense, but rather for the military style of assault as in the Aurora Theater. HB 1224 limits magazine size to 15 rounds, a reasonable step to address the Aurora style shootings.
Guns sold today are more lethal: faster firing, more rounds and more lethal bullets. Sadly as the weapons become more lethal, the laws become more lax, as evidenced by the lifting of the ban on assault weapons. This imbalance is eroding our rights as citizens. In 2010 by Justice Steven of the U.S. Supreme Court observed in his dissent in McDonald vs. Chicago: "Your interest in keeping and bearing a certain firearm may diminish my interest in being and feeling safe from armed violence."
HB 1229 requires universal background checks. The NRA opposes universal background checks even though 85 percent of Americans and 74 percent of households with an NRA member support such background checks. Shockingly, the same NRA that lobbied to lift the ban on assault weapons objects to universal background checks for purchasers of guns, now including assault weapons. As weapons become more powerful, more sophisticated and more deadly, universal background checks become more critical. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that 40 percent of gun sales today occur without background checks.
As important and reasonable as Colorado's new gun laws are, a small group of gun activists seek to recall senator John Morse, a 13-year police officer and former chief of police. Will we let a highly energized minority, led by gun activists recall Senator John Morse and repeal laws passed to protect and secure our lives? A complacent majority risks being overturned by a zealous and energetic minority.
America is watching Colorado to see if the NRA and gun activists can reverse our responsible gun policies. Be proactive and change this alarming trend by voting no on the attempted recall of Senator John Morse. He stood up for us. Now we must stand up for him.
Phil Kendall is a retired lawyer who lives in Senate District 11.