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Playing The Blame Game In Colorado

Playing The Blame Game In Colorado

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It has been a difficult fall for residents of Colorado Springs, Colo. On Oct. 31, a man walked down a downtown street with a rifle, shooting bystanders seemingly at random until he was fatally shot by police; four people were killed, including the shooter. Then, on Nov. 27, a gunman opened fire in the vicinity of a grocery store and Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people—including a police officer and an Army veteran. Appalled by the senseless violence, people in the area have been looking for answers.The insensitivity of laying the blame for these tragic incidents at the door of Colorado Springs residents, especially at a time when many were still grieving, is staggering.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has one of those—an answer that is equal parts offensive and absurd. Hickenlooper supported the state law instituting “universal” background checks, legislation that infuriated gun-rights supporters and led to the recall of two state senators and the resignation of a third. Presumably realizing that as governor of Colorado he walks a fine line between pro- and anti-gunners, he tends to avoid making categorical statements on Second Amendment issues and has tried to distance himself rhetorically from Michael Bloomberg, even as the latter poured money into the state in defense of the recalled senators. 

During a recent interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” however, Hickenlooper appeared nervous and irritated, especially after the anchor pointed out that gun control didn’t seem to be doing much in Colorado to prevent high-profile shootings. The governor countered, “But, at the same time, in Colorado Springs, it’s one of the more conservative parts of the state. We probably have more people that have licenses for concealed weapons, probably more guns around. That didn’t help.” 

The insensitivity of laying the blame for these tragic incidents at the door of Colorado Springs residents, especially at a time when many were still grieving, is staggering. But the stupidity of the argument is even more unbelievable. The perpetrator of the shooting near the Planned Parenthood clinic—whom we won’t dignify by naming—lives 65 miles away from the city. And let’s not forget that concealed-carry permits only apply to handguns; both of the shooters in question were armed with long guns.

Jeff Crank, a political strategist and talk radio host, told the Washington Times that the governor’s statement was “nothing more than demagoguery.” Laura Carno, head of the conservative organization “I Am Created Equal,” said that, “This is a classic case of the gun-control world trying to blame law-abiding citizens for the actions of people who are not law-abiding. There’s nothing that says that this guy had a concealed-carry permit.” That’s the familiar refrain of politicians asked to explain why their strict gun-control policies aren’t working: It’s not us, it’s those neighboring states.

In fact, the suspect’s past criminal history before he moved to Colorado makes it unlikely that he would have even been granted such a permit. “The governor is trying to make a connection, and there is no way to make that connection,” Carno continued. “There’s no evidence or even a hint that anybody with a lawful concealed-carry permit had anything to do with this.” 

It may be that Gov. Hickenlooper was flustered and fired back with an ill-conceived answer. But if he knows he was in the wrong when he blamed concealed-carry permit holders for the actions of two crazed individuals, he has yet to admit it. Worse yet, he continues to plug gun control as the answer. In an interview with the Denver Post, the governor was more circumspect, hedging with claims that he would only pursue new measures that could actually stop shootings like the recent ones: “We’re trying to make sure we’re going to suggest a solution that would have made a difference.” Yet he still called for “universal” background checks on a national level, saying, “It would help make sure someone doesn’t bring guns in from other states, who, again, should not have guns.” 

That’s the familiar refrain of politicians asked to explain why their strict gun-control policies aren’t working: It’s not us, it’s those neighboring states. Any official in Chicago can probably recite such an argument in his sleep. It’s a lame dodge, but at least Hickenlooper isn’t insulting his own law-abiding constituents this time around. Still, we’d suggest that maybe, just maybe, the governor should accept that he’s never going to find the right variation of “There are just too many (legally owned) guns!”

Use Your Power!

If you have a concealed-carry permit, let Gov. Hickenlooper know what you think about his implication that you are part of the problem. Tell him that more gun control is never going to eliminate violence—and law-abiding gun owners help to ensure that society is not defenseless against predators. Call his office at (303) 866-2471, or leave a comment here.