Morse recall effort decidedly off target
Some gun-rights advocates were almost giddy with their announcement Monday they had gathered enough signatures to begin the recall process against Colorado Sen. President John Morse.
They were also a bit premature in declaring the recall effort a success, since the signatures they gathered still must be verified. And then there is that little matter of an actual recall election to determine whether Morse remains in office.
It’s clear there will be plenty of money from pro-gun groups such as the NRA to help in the effort to unseat Morse, if the recall election proceeds.
Democratic groups appear equally eager to make the fight over Morse a national referendum on gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other national organizations are already raising money to campaign on Morse’s behalf.
All this for a battle over someone who can serve only one more year in the Legislature even if he is not recalled. Morse will be term-limited at the end of 2014.
But one important issue ignored by both sides in this dispute is whether recall is an appropriate remedy for the wrongs that Morse’s critics think he has committed. We don’t believe it is.
The Daily Sentinel’s position has long been that recall is a tool designed to remove from office those elected officials who have committed malfeasance or gross neglect of their duties while in office. It is not something that should be used to reverse election outcomes or to punish elected officials for political disagreements.
Elections have consequences, and the 2012 election in Colorado gave Democrats a majority in both houses of the state Legislature, and therefore the votes they needed to pass much of the gun legislation they sought.
That said, we certainly disagreed with Morse and his fellow Democrats regarding some gun legislation this year. In particular, we think a bill introduced by Morse, which would have held gun makers and gun sellers legally liable for any crimes committed by guns they distributed, was patently unconstitutional. Fortunately, Morse could not muster enough votes to push it.
The two big gun measures approved by the Legislature — requiring background checks for all gun sales in the state and banning ammunition magazines of larger than 15 rounds — will have little impact on gun violence and are of debatable constitutionality.
A group of 52 county sheriffs in Colorado, including Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, believes the new laws are unconstitutional and has filed a lawsuit to get them overturned. The group is also seeking an injunction to prevent the laws from being enforced until their constitutionality is determined by the courts.
That legal action is entirely appropriate. Each of the county sheriffs have sworn oaths to uphold the constitutions of the United States and of this state. If they believe new laws are unconstitutional, they have an obligation to obtain a judicial ruling regarding the laws’ status.
Taking the issue to court demonstrates more fidelity to our judicial system than refusing to enforce the laws in question, as some sheriffs were threatening to do earlier this year.
The question of the constitutionality of the new Colorado laws will no doubt be raised during the recall campaign against Morse, if the secretary of state’s office verifies enough signatures to force a recall election. Some of his opponents will likely accuse Morse of violating his oath of office by supporting gun-control measures.
But it’s clear that Morse hasn’t committed any crime, and he is guilty of neither malfeasance nor serious neglect. Rather, he is being attacked because his political views on guns are much different than those of his opponents.
So, get ready for the gunfight at the Colorado Corral. The rhetorical bullets are sure to start flying.