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Hickenlooper’s Misstep Re-Stokes The 2013 Gun Debate

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Gov. John Hickenlooper signs gun bills into law in March 2013. (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper signs gun bills into law in March 2013. (credit: CBS)

Dominic Dezzutti By Dominic Dezzutti
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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It is human nature to try to fix something that you feel you could have handled better. Who among us have not tackled a problem the wrong way and desired for a do-over, or at the very least, the opportunity to make things better than how you left it?

The problem with trying to go back and fix a mistake is often, you make it worse. Anyone who has ever painted a room and messed up an edge knows that trying to fix such an error often leads to making it much worse.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is getting a real-life lesson of what happens when you try to clean up a mess, without getting your apology story completely straight.

The governor is coming under fire for comments he made to sheriffs recently about how he regretted his decision to sign some of the gun control legislation in 2013 that has angered many Coloradans.

Hickenlooper seemed to repeat a mistake that he made in 2013 by underestimating the opponents of the gun laws and the scrutiny he would be under during his explanation.

Whenever you are in a position of power, if you make an unpopular decision, going back and trying to fix it or at least soften the blow, will be put under the highest scrutiny.

Once the hornets’ nest has been whacked with a stick, any attempt to calm the hornets needs to be done with extraordinary care.

Telling the sheriffs that he was not fully informed about the bills he was signing into law may have seemed like an honest confession. But it doesn’t take a political scientist to predict that his claim was going to be examined to the highest degree.

Some Republicans blame Hickenlooper’s comments on a desire to seem more moderate. I understand that point, but I don’t agree.

I think Hickenlooper honestly does not want to have a contentious relationship with the majority of sheriffs in the state. But he didn’t think through his reasoning for his apology, nor did he recognize that the apology and each and every comment made would be released to the media to pick apart, sound bite by sound bite.

The entire affair speaks to underestimating the situation.

Anyone in a relationship has been in a fight where they have underestimated how hurt or ticked off their partner was. Someone brings flowers to an apology that required a much more thoughtful effort.

I see this the same way.

Hickenlooper brought metaphorical flowers and a flimsy story to a situation that required a much more nuanced explanation. Now he’s going to pay for that mistake by seeing the gun laws that turned his 2013 upside down return to the headlines and reinvigorate a Republican primary that had generally lost its mojo.

This situation will not cost Hickenlooper his job. Gun rights advocates would like to think unaffiliated voters will swing on this one issue, but that is wishful thinking.

However, Hickenlooper will need to spend more money and time addressing an issue that may have died down without his failed apology attempt.

We have all recovered from botched apologies in our own relationships and the governor will be no different. But while some of us can skip the florist and go straight to the jewelry store, Hickenlooper’s options are going to be tougher and far more expensive.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

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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