In February, a group from Colorado’s 59th House District got together to discuss recalling state Rep. Michael McLachlan, D-Durango, for violations of his campaign promises to “support the Second Amendment and the rights of all gun owners.” This was not a mere policy disagreement, but a fundamental belief in constitutionally protected rights. It’s an issue of protecting individual rights versus majority will.
After the shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook, Conn., there were emotionally charged arguments to “do something” to improve public safety. We understand this, but trampling on the rights of millions of law-abiding citizens does nothing to deter the criminally insane or improve safety.
The Herald and McLachlan supporters mischaracterized the recall effort from the start suggesting that outside big money was behind it. They suggested hecklers were bussed in for McLachlan’s first appearance after his votes. The Herald ran a cartoon depicting critics as hate mongers, labeling those opposed to “reasonable gun restrictions” as the “lunatic fringe” demonstrating Saul Alinsky’s rule No. 5 – “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
Ironically, the recall effort exposed some interesting facts about McLachlan’s backers. Two-thirds of his issue committee’s funding came from one Washington, D.C., super PAC, America Votes. Julie Wells, a professional political operative who has chaired more than 60 committees and raised millions from special interests outside Colorado, runs his issue committee. Hardly “citizens” for Mike.
By contrast, the recall effort was 100 percent grass-roots, organic. Unpaid volunteers gathered 8,500 signatures in a geographically challenging district. Circulators from six counties sacrificed weekends and professional time. Unaffiliated voters, Republicans, and Democrats participated. Although 80 percent of the minimum signatures required fell short, any objective observer would conclude this as remarkable. Hardly the lunatic fringe.
Two primary themes motivated people to sign. First, the belief that the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Second, and just as powerful, people are tired of lying politicians.
Despite McLachlan’s apologists, he lied. He voted counter to his campaign promises and emails he sent his constituents. A phone call from Joe Biden, urging his support, seemed to sway him. The outcome of the 2012 election surely would have been different if McLachlan had openly backed gun-control legislation. This premise, when posed as a question, prompted a number of Democratic signatures.
The simple truth is the gun-control laws passed are nothing but feel good measures that don’t address the problem and can’t be enforced. In truth, FBI statistics show gun crime has plunged by 63 percent and gun killings are down 39 percent from 1993 to 2011. Sadly, most Americans wrongly think it’s worse, hence the ability of progressives to advance their agenda and “never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
McLachlan seeks to empower more government bureaucracy and minimize individual rights in an era when the Justice Department illegally sends guns to Mexico, unconstitutionally taps journalists’ phones, the IRS is used as a political weapon and federal agencies increasingly use drones over U.S. soil. He defends his actions today even as we learn about PRISM, the massive NSA data mining effort of our Internet activity.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about this soft tyranny and what democracies should fear: “Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”
We realize replacing one representative is mostly symbolic and won’t directly impact state or national policy. Our dedication to this effort was based on a belief in holding politicians accountable and that grass-roots is better than outside big money, an example others might follow.
Regarding this, we succeeded. The effort to recall state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, is succeeding. We’ve met and networked with hundreds of dedicated people who donated time, money and creativity to fighting for worthy principles. We’ve exposed McLachlan’s outside backers and their anti-gun agenda. Most importantly, we’ve raised awareness and dialogue regarding political accountability. Our next steps haven’t been decided, but we’re not going away.
This was co-authored by Dave Saleh and Mike Vitale of Durango, both of whom were active in coordinating the effort to recall state Rep. Mike McLachlan through the San Juan Freedom Defense Committee. Reach Saleh at firstname.lastname@example.org and Vitale at email@example.com.