Democrats’ Gun Vote Filibuster And Sit-In Draws Eyerolls In Rural Colorado

Listen Now
3min 59sec
Photo: Patten Guns in Fort Morgan, Colorado
Patten Guns and other shops line Main Street in Fort Morgan, Colorado.

Colorado's Democratic lawmakers were right in the thick of high-profile attempts to force action on gun control this week. Sen. Michael Bennet added his voice to the filibuster and Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter joined their colleagues in the House sit-in.

Those efforts, including Rep. Jared Polis' mention of the sit-in in his introduction of the Dalai Lama in Boulder on Thursday, drew accolades from some. But in rural Fort Morgan, they were met with disdain from Coloradans on both sides of the gun debate.

"I just thought they were jerks," Becky Oldemeyer said as she sat at the counter of Frankie's Coffee Shop. "They don't do their job, but they're worried about this."

She's a big believer in gun rights and thinks the best response to mass shootings like the one in Orlando is for more people to carry firearms.

"Why did those people in that nightclub call for help? They needed a gun, because how else are you going to stop the idiot?" she said. "I think people need to protect themselves. They can't depend on the police and everybody else."

Sales, Concealed Carry Permits Climbing

It would appear a lot of Coloradans agree with Oldemeyer. Year-to-date gun sales in the state are up more than 10 percent over the same period last year, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation data.

Chart: Colorado gun sales

The CBI also reports the number of people applying for concealed carry permits has almost doubled. And that doesn't include the two weeks since the Orlando nightclub attack.

Chart: Concealed Handgun Permits

That amounts to nearly 32,000 applications in the first five months of the year, up from about 16,500 applications over the same period last year

Sterling Prisbrey, a customer service manager with USA Firearms Training in Denver, said his customers tell him they’re interested in concealed carry following high-profile mass shootings.

"A lot of people saying, ‘That’s it, I think it’s time to take action to protect my family,'" Prisbrey said.

In neighboring Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico there's also been a near doubling in the applications for concealed carry permits.

Little Appetite For Democrats' Techniques

Candy Loomis, who owns Frankie's Coffee Shop, said the Democrats' gun control efforts this week were nothing more than political theater.

"They had the first two years Obama was president to do it. They had the House and the Senate and they didn’t do it," Loomis said. "They saved it for political reasons."

Loomis does agree with some of the gun policies being advocated by Congress and in Colorado. She supports requiring in-person classes for concealed carry permits, something the state passed three years ago. And she wants to see people investigated for terrorist ties prevented from buying firearms. But that's something congressional Republicans have blocked.

"You got somebody on the terrorist watch list? How in the world did they get a gun? I don't get it," Loomis said.

In this rural community where many hunt and live far from law enforcement guns are both tools and symbols of independence. And few people seem to have any patience with the idea that more restrictive gun laws would reduce gun violence. It's worth remembering that when Colorado's legislature passed tougher gun laws three years ago, people around here started a movement to secede from the state

One exception, though, is Bob Everett. The retired teacher was reading in the shade in front of his house in Fort Morgan. He said he's frustrated that Congress hasn’t done anything to tighten gun laws after years of mass shootings.

"It's just hard for me to believe," he said. "It makes our country look really callous in the eyes of the world."

Everett is a big fan of gun control. He’d like to see a new assault weapons ban. But he doesn’t think congressional Democrats accomplished much with their sit-in and filibuster.

"You’ve got a right to show your feelings and so on. But to disrupt the Senate and so on, I don’t care for that kind of demonstration at all," Everett said.

The debate over gun policy in Washington may have gotten new life out of the Orlando nightclub attack, but in rural Colorado -- where guns are already a touchy subject -- it seems to have done little to change the conversation.