The debate over gun control continues to get ugly.
The same week Franklin Sain was arrested for sending Representative Rhonda Fields allegedly harassing, racist e-mails vocal, pro-gun audience members at an Aurora Town Hall meeting antagonized Senator Morgan Carroll, who felt the need for a security escort afterward.
Several days after the incident, which took place on February 21, Brenda Francis, the media director for Firearms for Colorado, sent out a press release with the headling, "MORGAN CARROLL FLEES OWN TOWN HALL--TO AVOID GUN OWNERS' QUESTIONS." Francis wrote that Carroll "sprinted from her own town hall Thursday night, at the Community College of Aurora, Colorado, while citizens insisted on an audience with her." The release went on to state that the theme of the meeting, "Getting to know your courts," was "not published on her web site, newsletter, or Facebook page...."
Nonetheless, the post with the theme of the town hall meeting does exist; it's dated February 19, and was followed the next day by this Twitter notification.
Townhall Thurs Feb. 21, 7:00 - 8:30PM at Community College of Aurora. Topic-Getting to Know Your Courts with special guests. #coleg
— Sen Morgan Carroll (@MorganLCarroll) February 20, 2013
According to Francis, she sent the press release four days after the meeting because she worried it would get lost in the media cycle on Friday and the subsequent weekend snowstorm. "The media really hypes of up the snow," she said. "I just thought that some of the bigger media outlets, they don't pay attention to anything except the snow."
Francis says many of those who showed up expected to have a conversation about gun control. In her words, "most people were anticipating an ability to have a conversation. A lot of us had not ever been to a political thing like this, and so people were a little bit at first annoyed that it was this was 'learn about your courts' legislative judicial panel."
As for Carroll, she was surprised that so many people showed up expecting to talk about guns, since the topic had already been covered -- twice. "We've done one on gun violence and we've done one on mental health," she said. "We've actually covered this from two different angles. We usually pick a new topic every Thursday, but we usually don't do the same topic twice in one year."
Following the meeting, Carroll posted a tweet indicating she may have been threatened at the meeting:
Some gun advocates need some training in why civility is more effective than threats. They make normal gun owners look bad. #coleg
— Sen Morgan Carroll (@MorganLCarroll) February 22, 2013
Continue for more about the gun-control disruption at the Aurora town hall. Still, Carroll says she felt more "disrespected" than directly threatened. She stresses that the majority of people in attendance were cordial and respectful. But a "loud screamer" was an exception to this rule, "going into personal attacks randomly all over the place" after the meeting had adjourned. Carroll attributed the attendees' mistaken assumption about the theme of the town hall meeting to a radio ad released by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owner's association, which calls itself "Colorado's only no-compromise gun rights group."
"What had happened was some people from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners paid for an ad saying it was a gun town hall, and it wasn't," she says. "At least a third of the people there were there in response to the radio ad."
Francis agrees that a few audience members vocally expressed a desire to ask questions and receive answers about some of the proposed gun control legislation, and cards on which audience members could write questions for the panel to answer had been distributed. However, she maintains that gun questions were shuffled to the bottom of the pile.
"A lot of them have come to the conclusion that phone calls and e-mails aren't enough," she says of attendees who wanted to talk about gun control. "Everyone seemed to be really enjoying the situation and submitting questions until you realized none of the questions are going to be asked."
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Carroll believes that intimidation tactics are a strategy being employed by pro-gun advocacy groups and organizations, calling it their "strategy." Other members of the Democratic caucus are considering having security present at their respective town hall meetings in light of the events at the Aurora meeting and the threats against Fields -- who was supposed to be in attendance at the February 21 meeting, but chose not to out of safety concerns.
Whether these incidents are connected or part of an orchestrated strategy is speculative. But as the debate over gun control escalates at frightening speed, advocates from both sides seem to be seeing the chasm widen, rather than taking steps toward mutual understanding or a middle ground.
More from our News archive: "Franklin Sain, accused of racist threats against gun-control backer, should be fired, says NAACP."