Conservatives are calling a Colorado legislator the Democratic Todd Akin after he wandered into a discussion about rape while debating a gun control bill last week on the state House floor.
State Rep. Joe Salazar (D), a first-term lawmaker, spoke up during a debate Friday over a bill that would ban concealed weapons from college campuses in Colorado. Gun rights advocates have pushed for more concealed carry permits on campuses in the years since the Virginia Tech shooting. In an apparent attempt to respond to concerns that the proposed law would leave women defenseless against rapists on campus, Salazar opined that fearful women may shoot first and ask questions later, putting men at risk.
“It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at,” Salazar said, according to a transcript of his remarks published by the Denver Post. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.”
Conservatives and gun rights activists pounced.
KDVR-TV, the Fox station in Denver, reported that Lawrence and another Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Lori Saine (R) called Salazar out after his comments. But Saine later “apologized to Salazar after he returned to the well and denying [sic] that he’d implied that women don’t know when they’re being raped.”
The station also noted that the Republican caucus in the Colorado state House “never issued a press release about Salazar’s statement.”
But a clip of Salazar during the floor debate went viral on the conservative twitterscape as gun rights activists piled on. Akin’s name was raised more than once.
Salazar apologized in a statement to the Denver Fox affiliate, but said his words were being twisted by his opponents.
“I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was absolutely not my intention,” he said. “We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns makes people safer on campus. I don’t believe they do. That was the point I was trying to make. If anyone thinks I’m not sensitive to the dangers women face, they’re wrong.”
“I am a husband and father of two beautiful girls, and I’ve spent the last decade defending women’s rights as a civil rights attorney,” Salazar said. “Again, I’m deeply sorry if I offended anyone with my comments.”
Democrats stood by Salazar.
“Whatever his words may have been and however much those words are being taken out of context, he did the right thing to take responsibility,” state House speaker Mark Ferrandino (D) told the Denver Post. He called Salazar “a great legislator and a person who has worked hard in support of women.”
The bill to ban concealed weapons on campus passed the Democratic-controlled House on Monday.