Two Colorado Democrats who provided crucial support for a package of state gun laws were voted out of office on Tuesday in special elections seen as a test of whether swing-state voters would accept gun restrictions after mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. The vote, which came five months after the United States Senate defeated several gun restrictions, handed another loss to gun-control supporters and gave moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws. The immediate effect of the recalls — the first of their kind in Colorado — was to remove two state senators, Angela Giron of Pueblo and John Morse of Colorado Springs, and replace them with Republicans. Although the election was confined to two small districts in Southern Colorado and does not repeal Colorado’s gun laws or change partisan control of the General Assembly, both sides spent heavily and campaigned fiercely, fighting to prevail in what analysts called a proxy battle between gun-control advocates and the National Rifle Association.
In a spirited concession speech, Mr. Morse, who lost the vote by just two percentage points, called the loss of his seat “purely symbolic” and defended the record of the last legislative session as “phenomenal.”
“You’re not judged by how you got knocked down but how you got back up,” he said.
Mr. Morse, who was also the Senate president, will be replaced by his challenger on the ballot, Bernie Herpin, a Republican former city councilman from Colorado Springs.
For advocates on both sides, the stakes in Tuesday’s elections were far bigger than the fates of two state politicians. As money and national attention poured into Colorado, a state of hunters that has been stained by two mass shootings, the races became a symbol of the nation’s bitter fight over gun control, with one side bolstered by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and the other by the National Rifle Association.