Colorado’s Republican leaders fought valiantly against the anti-gun bills promoted by the Democrats. And yet, as angry as I am with the Democrats—including Governor Hickenlooper, who recently signed into law the ambiguously drafted, rights-violating gun magazine restrictions and the registration requirement for all gun purchases—the simple fact is that Republicans bear much of the responsibility for the passage of these bills.
By promoting rights-violating policies of their own, Republicans did two things that brought about passage of the anti-gun laws. First, they handed Democrats all the arguments used to restrict gun sales and use. Second, they handed Democrats control over every branch of Colorado government by alienating most Interior West voters.
When Democrats pass anti-gun bills, that’s just Democrats being Democrats. As State Senator Evie Hudak made clear, Democrats think that individuals are too stupid and irresponsible to make their own decisions and lead their own lives, so therefore Democrats must step in and control people’s lives for them. No surprise there. So it is the Republicans, who very often pretend to champion individual liberty and free markets, who are the real disappointment. Consider some examples.
The Drug War
We know that Democrats want to outlaw so-called “high-capacity gun magazines,” however defined. But Republicans hardly put themselves in a position to complain.
Last fall, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, allowing possession of low-capacity bags of marijuana. Many Republicans fought against not only high-capacity bags of marijuana, but low-capacity bags as well. Why? Like their ideological brothers in the Democratic Party, these Republicans think that individuals are just too stupid and irresponsible to make their own decisions and lead their own lives, so therefore politicians and bureaucrats must tell people what to do—and throw them in jail if they stray from that path.
And yet let’s compare the two items. If someone consumes marijuana, about the worst thing he’s likely to do is sit on the couch and munch Doritos. Sure, he’d endanger others by driving or operating other heavy machinery, but the same goes for alcohol. On the other hand, a criminal who obtains a gun magazine actually can kill a lot of people with it. So when Republicans advocate the prohibition of high-capacity and low-capacity bags of marijuana, but say they’re all for “high-capacity” gun magazines, their arguments ring hollow with hypocrisy.
Amendment 64 also legalized hemp under Colorado law. Why have Republicans opposed the legalization of hemp? Quite simply because the hemp plant looks like the type of marijuana plant that contains the drug THC. The party that wants to ban the sale and possession of plants based on what they look like, is hardly in a position to offer any serious protest when Democrats want to ban so-called “assault weapons” based on what they look like.
Likewise, the party that wants to throw my wife in prison for seeking an abortion—even in cases of rape and risks to her health—for buying the “wrong” sorts of birth control, and for seeking the “wrong” sorts of fertility treatments, is hardly in a position to complain when the Democrats want to throw my wife (and me) in jail for trading the “wrong” gun magazines.
The Democrats honed their strategy of attacking Republicans as waging a “war on women” right here in Colorado, starting with Ken Buck, the U.S. Senate candidate who endorsed the anti-abortion “personhood” measure before backing away from it. Colorado now has three sitting members of Congress who have supported the same nonsense. And even now Rand Paul is floating a nationwide “personhood” measure (although not consistently).
Not only are anti-abortion Republicans wrong in the issue, they have destroyed the dominance once held by Republicans in this state.
Republicans who oppose equal protection under the law for gay couples, hardly can seriously complain when Democrats deny gun owners equal protection under the law.
As a political strategy, nothing could have been stupider than for the GOP to agitate wealthy, technologically savvy gay men—Jared Polis is worth $160 million, while Tim Gill is worth $400 million. And these men have helped bankroll the Democratic takeover of Colorado.
And look how Republicans handle arguments about things like gay marriage and civil unions. Colorado’s gay speaker of the house, Mark Ferrandino, said the civil unions bill is “about love, it’s about family, and it’s about equality under the law.” What did the Republicans argue? Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono said, “What this bill is about, really, is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?”
In other words, one side makes plausible moral arguments and argues equality under the law; the other side invoked ancient mythology and ghost stories. (Some Republicans did support the bill; they’re excluded from the criticisms of this section. Please note that I don’t support every aspect of the bill, although I do support gay marriage.)
The Democrats have proudly assumed the mantle of the party of reason, while the Republicans have proudly surrendered that mantle. So, when the Democrats pretend that all they want are “reasonable, common-sense gun restrictions,” their claims have a superficial plausibility, thanks to the faith-based claims typical of Republicans.
Many Republicans support federal background checks for employment. Can they seriously oppose federal background checks for gun sales? Such Republicans are ridiculous.
Many Republicans openly and loudly endorse government action to blatantly violate the rights of business owners to freely negotiate labor contracts. The injustices of such Republican policies dwarf the rights violations of the Democrats with respect to gun sales.
The Republicans tell business owners, “You may not hire undocumented Mexicans to manufacture large gun magazines.” The Democrats merely add, “You may not hire Americans, either.”
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As I tell my friends, Democrats have not won a single important election in Colorado in many years. The trouble is that Republicans find a way to lose every important election (a few safe seats aside). How do Republicans manage this?
To a large degree, the Colorado GOP has been the party that wants to throw women in prison for controlling their own bodies, the party that’s hostile to homosexuals, and party that’s hostile to immigrants.
Colorado Republicans have developed a reputation—largely earned—for being the anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-women party, and then Republicans stand around after getting their asses kicked, election after election, scratching their heads and wondering what happened.
So, yes, the Democrats deserve blame and condemnation for ramming through the anti-gun laws. But, really, they’re just following in Republican footsteps. Perhaps this loss will serve as a wake-up call for Republicans to change their path.
Ari Armstrong is a blogger and author in Colorado. He writes at AriArmstong.com.