Angela Giron is a freshman legislator from Colorado’s 3rd Senate District, which includes the city of Pueblo.
In March, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed gun control legislation that required background checks for private gun sales and banned high capacity magazines. The gun control laws were perceived as a response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting in December, although Colorado has experienced its share of mass gun violence after the 1999 Columbine high school shootings and the Aurora movie theater shooting where another dozen people were murdered nearly a year ago.
Giron was one of the legislators who supported the gun control bills, which were largely seen as a victory for the state’s Democrats, who control both chambers of the state legislature. The legislation had public support; a majority of Colorado voters (55%) who were polled in December 2012 indicated that they supported stricter gun laws.
But after the legislation was signed, Giron was caught in the political crossfire. Gun rights advocates quickly mobilized to recall Giron, as well as Democratic state Senator John Morse from Colorado Springs, who is also the president of the Colorado Senate. The two are facing a recall due to their support for gun control legislation.
Giron says that she did not take her decision to support the gun legislation lightly. Prior to the bill’s signing, she held three town hall meetings on gun legislation safety. She met with constituents who were gun owners and with those who had been victimized by guns. Giron was even invited to go shooting with some women in her district who were gun enthusiasts. Accepting the invitation, she went with the ladies to learn about their perspective as gun owners.
“What we were doing in the state legislature in terms of gun control has been described as being ‘modest.’ We never intended to take anyone’s guns away,” says Giron. “We really weren’t doing anything too radical. When your state has had two of the biggest gun tragedies, it is almost unconscionable to not address it in some way with policy.”
Republican George Rivera had planned to challenge Giron for the 3rd Senate District in 2014, but after enough signatures were gathered to recall Giron, he has become a challenger in the recall effort.
Rivera, a retired police officer with the Pueblo police department, takes a different view on guns. Rivera explains that honest, law-abiding residents will comply with laws that they are asked to obey, but when it comes to criminals intent on obtaining guns, he doesn’t believe that additional laws help.
“I have 34 years of experience in law enforcement. You can pass all the gun control laws you want, but criminals will do what they want to do,” Rivera said, explaining why he is opposed to the gun control legislation.
About half of Pueblo’s population is Latino, and Latinos constitute a majority of the school children population in the area’s main school district. Latinos are disproportionately affected by gun violence. With two Latinos competing to represent this district in Southern Colorado that still has a distinct rural flavor, eyes will turn to this recall effort to determine where the community will stand.
Last week the Colorado Secretary of State announced that the petition to recall Senator Giron met statutory and constitutional requirements. 12,648 petition signatures for the recall were deemed valid. Governor Hickenlooper has not yet announced a date for the recall election.
As reported in March on NBC Latino, a majority of Latino voters support gun control proposals regardless of their own party affiliation, according to polling by Latino Decisions. Whether Latino voters in Pueblo will mimic what the polling reflects remains to be seen.
Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the DailyGrito.com. She resides in California.