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Will GOP Overplay Its Hand on Gun Laws in 2014?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Flush with confidence from the success of the recalls of John Morse and Angela Giron, state Republican lawmakers seem ready to double down on gun issues. GOP leaders are seemingly tripping over themselves in an attempt to be the first to offer new bills in 2014 that would repeal or modify the gun control measures passed this year, despite still being in the minority in both the Senate and the House.

If the success of the recall elections either represented all Colorado voters or was purely based on gun laws, then this gamble may pay off. However, those are two very big presumptions to make. And frankly, I believe both of those presumptions will prove to be dead wrong.

Obviously, the recall elections began from a focus on gun control issues. However, overall dissatisfaction with the legislature and other issues cannot be ignored in the recall results. With a heavily Democratic district in Pueblo recalling Angela Giron by over 12 points, one must believe that issues beyond guns came into play.

If other issues indeed came into play, the new laser focus that the GOP has on repealing gun control laws may waste an opportunity to examine the other issues that led to the recall results.

Also, if Republican lawmakers follow through with their plans to focus on gun control issues as the party in the minority in 2014, they may see the same push back that state Democratic leaders are feeling in 2013.

Some moderate Democratic lawmakers felt that their own party spent too much time and focus on gun control issues in the last legislature. Indeed, that intense focus has become a big target for Republicans looking to 2014.

However, the very same mistake can be made by the GOP if they are not careful. If the focus on gun control was able to be turned on Democrats, the same focus on gun control can be turned around on Republicans. I wonder if Republicans running in competitive districts in 2014 really want to see this heavy handedness on gun laws.

I realize that it is very hard for state Republicans to approach the success of the recall elections without a sense of excitement. Striking while the iron is hot, especially since the Republicans have been a bit of losing streak, makes focusing on gun issues very tempting.

But I think if Republicans are to take advantage of this success, they need to look at the entire picture and operate with a sense of moderation.

If they use the success of the recalls as a referendum against the general tone of all of the actions of the 2013 state legislature, they would be able to appeal to many more independent voters, especially outside the metro area. That also seems like a longer term strategy that all Republican lawmakers could use in elections, even those in competitive districts.

Also, if the GOP uses moderation in its attempt to address the new gun laws, it will lessen the opportunity for Democrats to decry the actions of the Republican Party in the exact way that the Republicans decried what the Democrats did. That’s a risk even if not one of the GOP gun bills passes the House. John Morse was heavily criticized over a bill he sponsored but never got out of committee.

Overreach was the problem that many voters cited in criticizing the 2013 legislature. If that overreach is answered with equal overreach, then it will be attacked just as effectively.

It’s hard to temper the excitement that comes from success, but if that success is not tempered, it can be quickly turned into a weapon used against you. If GOP lawmakers are not careful with their approach to gun laws, they may see how quickly the tables can turn.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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