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Colorado state senators recalled over gun control support

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FILE: This image shows Colorado Democratic State Senate President John Morse, left, and state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. (AP)

Two Democratic lawmakers in Colorado, including the president of the state Senate, were recalled Tuesday in elections brought about by their support for tougher gun control laws. 

According to unofficial results, voters in Colorado Springs favored recalling state Sen. John Morse, the body's president, by 51 percent to 49 percent. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo was defeated in her recall election, 56 percent to 44 percent.   

The Colorado Republican Party called the vote results "a loud and clear message to out-of-touch Democrats across the nation" in a statement released late Tuesday. Colorado's Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, said he was "disappointed by the outcome of the recall elections" before calling on state residents to "refocus again on what unites Coloradans -- creating jobs, educating our children, creating a healthier state -- and on finding ways to keep Colorado moving forward."

"We as the Democratic Party will continue to fight," Morse told supporters in Colorado Springs as he conceded the race. Republican Bernie Herpin, a former Colorado Springs city councilman, will replace him. Giron will be replaced by Republican George Rivera, a former deputy police chief in Pueblo.

"We will win in the end because we are on the right side," Giron said in her concession speech. 

The votes marked the first time in Colorado history that a state lawmaker faced a recall effort and the biggest backlash in states that passed tougher gun-control laws following two mass shootings last year – at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

Democratic-leaning Connecticut, Maryland, and New York also passed tougher gun laws without a recall effort making a state ballot.

The states’ effort came after President Obama’s unsuccessful attempt to get Congress to pass stricter federal laws – including tighter background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.

In Colorado Springs, the majority of registered voters are Democrats, but many are conservative-leaning. 23 percent of them, in fact, signed the petition to recall Morse, according to The Denver Post.

The National Rifle Association and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lined up on opposite sides of the recall effort, led by gun-rights advocates upset over the legislation and how the hearings were conducted.

Both state legislators voted for 15-round limits on ammunition magazines and for expanded background checks on private gun sales.

The legislation passed Colorado's Democrat-led legislature without any Republican support and was signed into law by Hickenlooper, who had initially rejected calls for stronger gun control laws.

Morse, a former police chief in suburban Colorado Springs, said Colorado's gun laws were commonsense ideas to reduce fatalities in mass shootings. He was first elected to the Colorado Senate in 2006.

Reported contributions to Morse and Giron totaled about $3 million, dwarfing the reported amount raised by gun activists who petitioned for the recall, though some independent groups didn't have to report spending. Both the NRA and Bloomberg contributed more than $300,000 to the pro- and anti-recall campaigns.

In addition, dozens of elected county sheriffs have sued to block the gun laws.

One of the Morse recall organizers, Timothy Knight, said supporters are upset that lawmakers limited debate on the gun legislation and seemed more inclined to take cues from the White House than their constituents.

"If the people had been listened to, these recalls wouldn't be happening," Knight said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.