Armed and Dangerous

Guns, alcohol and tobacco fuel the sport of politics.

Still, I run into one almost right away. "See? People get the wrong idea about Democrats," complains Lois Tochtrop, a Democratic state representative from Adams County. "I'm a firm believer in Second Amendment rights. I grew up in Missouri hunting. Shot rabbits to eat -- we'd just spit out the buckshot. I won't shoot rabbits here, though; they have fleas."

"And I won't shoot anything I can't eat," she adds, although she admits that her ethical stance could be tested this fall: Tochtrop's husband has just drawn his first moose license.

Back with Caldara's group, Tim Trumble, owner of a greeting-card company and an Independence Institute supporter dressed in a red, white and blue shirt, says he was thrilled to receive the invite to the 1st Annual ATF Day. "I'm a shooter," he explains, "so when I heard about this, I said to my wife, 'This is for me!' I don't drink or smoke. But I shoot, and she drinks. And maybe I will try smoking today!"

When Trumble and Chris Gierach, a DU law student who is interning for Caldara over the summer, hit a shooting dry spell, Caldara perks up. "Like a good Republican," he tells them, "my success comes from your failures."

The shooting starts to wrap up around 1 p.m. Caldara, for one, is ready to move on. "I've only been doing this for a little while," he says, nodding at his shotgun. "But drinking! I've been practicing that since college."

Back at the parking lot, state Senate president John Andrews and Representative Nancy Spence lean against a car. Caldara walks up to them. "I've always wanted to approach a couple of representatives with a gun on my shoulder and say, 'Okay, let's talk,'" he says.

"Anything you say, boss," Andrews quips.

Andrews claims to have missed the shotgun portion of the morning because of a previously scheduled Republican Party engagement. Still, he says, he's plenty in favor of the shooting sports. Besides, the senator adds, he's tired of hiding his true colors: It's time Republicans came out of the stuffy closet and revealed what fun they really are.

Take his car, a sporty Toyota convertible: "People say this doesn't fit with my man-of-the-people image. But I'm over that. It's not what it's cracked up to be. Now I'm just another suburban right-winger."

I track down Tochtrop and put the question to her directly: Is it true Republicans have become more fun than Democrats?

"No," Representative Tochtrop says forcefully. "Democrats have more fun."

"Doing what?"

There is a silence. "Golf," she says. "We have lots of golf fundraisers."

Inside the lodge, Kopel ponders the historical significance of Republicans as new fun guys on the block. "It wasn't always this way, you know," he says. "Churchill and Roosevelt used to split a pitcher of martinis when they met. And when I was growing up, the liberals had all the fun: You know, having sex..."

At the end of the day, Caldara proclaims the fundraiser an unqualified success. After all, he's on a mission. "We've got to dispel the rumor that liberals have more fun," he says. "They still have better sex than us. But we're working on that."

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