Angela Giron: My Loss Is Not A Victory For The NRA

Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron gives her concession speech after she lost in a recall vote in Pueblo, Colo., Tuesday Sept
Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron gives her concession speech after she lost in a recall vote in Pueblo, Colo., Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013. Two Colorado state lawmakers who backed gun-control measures in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut last year have been ousted in recall elections. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

WASHINGTON -- Angela Giron, one of the two Democratic state senators defeated in Colorado's historic recall election, wants to set the record straight: The work of anti-gun violence groups is far from over.

Giron and Senate President John Morse lost their seats Tuesday in Colorado's first recall, an effort that was orchestrated by gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association after the two lawmakers voted for stricter gun laws. The reforms, which included mandatory background checks for all firearms purchases and a limit on ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, were signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in March.

Since the recall was widely perceived as a national referendum on guns, its results were quickly regarded as a significant victory for the NRA and a loss for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most vocal proponents of stricter gun laws, and other groups aligned with his anti-gun violence agenda. Conservative outlets, in particular, seized on a comment Giron made a month before the election to The New Republic.

"For Mayors Against Illegal Guns, if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that," she said.

But while Giron's wounds are still fresh from her loss three days ago, the Pueblo Democrat told The Huffington Post on Friday that her remark was predicated on an election where gun policy would be the decisive issue -- and she strongly believes it was not.

"I'm disappointed that part of this story is going to be that the NRA won, when I don't really think they did ... that is how the message is being spun," Giron said in an interview. "That's disappointing, because if you dig deeper, that wasn't the case here."

Giron pointed to voter suppression tactics on the part of her opponents as one reason her supporters were unable to cast their ballots, an issue that was raised by Democrats leading up to the close of polls.

But the larger advantage to the NRA, according to Giron, was the number of outside groups that jumped at the chance to unseat two vulnerable Democrats. The Koch brothers' involvement through their nonprofit Americans For Prosperity was particularly challenging, as they targeted Giron over clean energy bills and Morse on tax and health care reform. Giron said she and Morse were also attacked over their support for a civil unions bill that passed the state legislature in March.

"Everything's a lot more complicated than it appears," Giron said, noting that the national media only covered the election through the prism of gun control and its implications.

Little coverage beyond local outlets in Colorado paid attention to the onslaught of issues that made the recall no different than any other election, she added.

Asked how anti-gun violence groups move forward, given the optics of the recall, Giron said organizations like Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns should continue to focus on convincing lawmakers in Washington to embrace universal background checks.

"Obviously we haven't done very well with that on the federal level, and a tone is certainly set from the top," she said. "The NRA instills fear in lawmakers by positioning itself as a group dedicated to the rights of responsible gun owners, but it really represents gun manufacturers. It's all about the money for them, which comes from manufacturers, not your average gun owner."

"These groups need to pull that curtain off the NRA and expose it for what it really is," Giron added.

When HuffPost asked if she regrets her swing vote on the gun bills earlier this year, Giron dubbed the legislature's session as "historic."

"I wouldn't take back anything that happened and was proud to have been a part of a session where we passed civil unions, provided undocumented immigrants with in-state tuition, and passed a voting bill that will tremendously increase access," she said.

"And with respect to guns, we passed modest, common-sense legislation in a state that was victim to two of the worst tragedies in our country's history," Giron added, referring to the 1999 Columbine school shooting and Aurora massacre last year. "I couldn't in good conscience have voted any other way."



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