Support of assault weapon ban should be litmus test in Denver mayor vote

Denver East High School had a student that required a pat-down search for guns before being allowed to enter the school. Somehow DPS thought that doing that without police officers was a good idea. It wasn’t. In fact, it was an idea that put the entire school population at risk.

How eerie that this incompetence reared its ugly head on the two-year anniversary of the Boulder King Soopers shooting. Our elected leaders, including me, failed us then too. An assault weapons ban likely would have prevented that shooting. I was recalled in 2013 for passing universal background checks and magazine limits. That list should have included an assault weapons ban. It didn’t. It’s one of the biggest regrets in my own life.

After the Boulder shooting, I publicly called on the new generation of state legislators and leaders to pass that assault weapons ban. They didn’t. Instead, they shifted the responsibility to local governments. After all, the NRA doesn’t want assault weapons banned. So, let someone at the municipal level take the heat. And let’s face it, no elected official has ever lost their job for failing to address gun safety — they’ve only lost it for taking a stand on gun safety. Who wants to risk their career over preventing the innocent slaughter of our children?

Every public servant. That’s who.

Unfortunately, most of our elected officials, up and down the levels of government, and on both sides of the aisle, are pandering politicians, not principled public servants putting the public interest above their own. They are concerned with their re-election or election to “higher” office.

I am hoping that times are finally changing.

There’s an election right now in Denver for Mayor and the City Council. When I spoke in Boulder after the shooting at King Soopers, I said that I would never vote for anyone who was in the legislative or executive branches at that time if they failed to pass an assault weapons ban. I have held to that promise and now so can you.

Chris Hansen and Leslie Herod were in the legislature then and now. Together with their legislative and executive colleagues, they have demonstrated nothing but cowardness on the issue of gun safety. Lots of platitudes, but no solutions. They have passed bills around the edges but haven’t addressed this issue head-on. It’s still legal to own an assault weapon in Colorado. It’s still illegal to sue gun manufacturers and sellers for arming criminals and psychopaths. Neither legislator is worthy of your vote.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has never championed gun safety. Not before Kelly Brough ran it, not while she ran it, and not since she ran it. But they sure have been supportive of folks who oppose gun safety. Time for us to oppose the Chamber’s view and the executives who thought it wasn’t their issue. The former CEO, Kelly Brough isn’t worthy of your vote.

Debbie Ortega has served on the Denver City Council for 28 years. And was serving when Denver passed its assault weapons ban. So, she is one of two candidates running in this race that has done something about gun safety. She has earned your consideration.

Michael Johnston served with me in the legislature from 2008-2013. He helped me and voted for every gun safety measure that eventually resulted in my recall. He too has earned your consideration and my vote.

Both Ortega and Johnston, however, also require your vigilance.

Denver’s mayor has a public platform second only to the governor. Our next mayor needs to be highly visible and outspoken on the issue of gun safety. Whether it’s Ortega or Johnston, we must hold them accountable to do just that. This election has focused on homelessness and affordable housing. Very important issues. But we need, we must demand, at least the same level of focus on keeping us from being subjected to gun violence.

In 2013, people that voted to enhance gun safety were mocked and some recalled. Ten years later let’s send a message that gun safety must be the cornerstone of anyone’s political career.

John Morse served in the Colorado State Senate from 2006 until he was recalled in October 2013. Morse was a police officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department and police chief in Fountain.

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