Colorado’s 6th Congressional District looks like a lot of the districts across the country where the battle for control of the U.S. House is being fought — often suburban, represented by Republicans but won two years ago by Democrat Hillary Clinton — but it has a history that most other swing districts lack.
Two of the deadliest mass shootings in recent American history happened inside the district’s past or current borders: the massacre at Columbine High School, which took place in 1999 when the district included that part of Jefferson County, and the Aurora theater shooting six years ago.
Democrats have been trying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the last four elections, but the Army and Marine Corps veteran from Aurora has confounded their efforts. Coffman regularly outperforms other Republicans on the ballot.
But this year, in the wake of the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., Democrats and their allies believe Coffman is vulnerable in ways he hasn’t been in past elections. They think Army Ranger veteran Jason Crow is the candidate who can defeat him, and they think that gun control, a topic Coffman’s previous challengers have mostly ignored, could be a key issue.
Not only does Crow match Coffman’s background, he also speaks comfortably about growing up a hunter and his familiarity with firearms before laying out his proposals, which include universal background checks, a ban on large-capacity magazines and restoration of the ban on military-style assault weapons.
In his first ad, released a week after the Parkland shooting, Crow slammed Coffman for taking tens of thousands of dollars from the National Rifle Association — more than any other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation — and talked about the “active shooter” drills his young children conduct at their elementary school.
“All he does is tweet about his thoughts and prayers, and he does nothing — because of the money that he takes and the people that he’s loyal to,” Crow says in the ad.
Coffman and his supporters say the Republican doesn’t march in lockstep with the NRA and point to bipartisan legislation he’s sponsored aimed at curbing gun violence, including a school-safety measure that passed the House this spring and a bill that would enable officials to remove firearms from people courts have determined pose a risk to themselves or others.
But that isn’t good enough for Crow, who convened a town hall attended by more than 100 people in Aurora earlier this month to discuss state and federal responses to gun violence.
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a rising star in the party and a potential 2020 presidential candidate, was among the panelists joining Crow for the two-hour town hall. Also on the panel were Joe Neguse, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District; Tom Sullivan, a Democrat and gun-control activist running in House District 37; Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, founders of Survivors Empowered; Tay Anderson, a former president of Never Again Colorado; and Jane Dougherty, who lost a sister in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I’ve had enough of empty promises and failed leadership from the politicians we trust to keep us safe,” Crow said. “Inaction is not an option. It’s time for common-sense gun violence solutions.”
At the end of the town hall, Crow told the crowd, “The bottom line is, we have common sense proposals. This isn’t for lack of ideas. We lack the will, we lack the votes, we lack the courage to make it happen. If the people in leadership now don’t have the courage, you just kick them out. That’s the bottom line.”
A recurring topic during the town hall was the proposition that politicians have reached across the aisle to craft bipartisan legislation — including red flag bills in Massachusetts and Indiana — to tackle the problem.