WASHINGTON - Gun rights advocates on Wednesday celebrated the unprecedented recall of two Colorado senators tossed out by voters for backing some of the nation's strictest gun laws, saying their victory would scare off other politicians from voting to approve firearms restrictions.
Proponents of tougher gun controls insisted they would not retreat from their push to enact laws in the aftermath of last year's massacre that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
"You should not expect us to back down an inch," said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group affiliated with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg, a billionaire who spent $2.2 million this year in a single congressional primary in Chicago to aid a Democrat who shared his gun control views, donated $350,000 to aid the Colorado lawmakers.
Tuesday's election emerged as a referendum on gun policies, and political observers said the win by gun rights activists is a clear warning sign to moderate politicians in swing states to tread carefully.
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"Although there are plenty of people who believe in strong gun control laws, it's still politically dangerous to support more restrictions if you are in conservative or swing areas," said Stuart Rothenberg of the independent Rothenberg Political Report.
It also will do little to revive congressional action on gun measures, stalled since the U.S. Senate rejected background checks in April. "We have turned the page on additional gun control" in a Congress focused on the Syria crisis and looming battles on the federal budget and debt ceiling, Rothenberg said.
In Tuesday's recall election, the first since the state adopted the procedure in 1912, Colorado Senate President John Morse lost his seat in a swing district in heavily Republican Colorado Springs by a scant 343 votes. Voters also tossed out Sen. Angela Giron, a first-term senator from a largely working-class district in Pueblo.
Both Democrats voted to expand background checks on private gun sales and impose limits on the size of ammunition magazines. Colorado passed the restrictions in March, within a year of the Newtown tragedy and a mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 in July 2012.
Officials with the National Rifle Association, who said they spent about $400,000 on the recall, said voter anger drove the election.
"The clear message that we get is that Michael Bloomberg is political poison," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. "There's an increased resentment towards Bloomberg's tactic of coming in and trying to buy elections."
In a statement, Bloomberg pledged to "continue to fight for sensible measures that reduce the scourge of gun violence."