Allegations that a Castle Rock gun store bribed people into signing a petition to recall Democratic Gov. Jared Polis with free shooting range passes caused a recent social media furor and resulted in more than two dozen complaints with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.
Josh Barton, vice president of sales and marketing for DCF Guns, said the issue was a misunderstanding and staff did not intend to imply people should sign the petition to receive free range passes. A post shared to the DCF Guns Facebook page after the controversy brewed stated the store gives free range passes for a variety of reasons, including if a customer has never been to the store before.
A petition to recall Polis is available at the store for people to sign. Barton said staff were reminded to speak with people about DCF memberships and programs as they came to sign the petition, and to offer passes to anyone who was a first-time store visitor. New visitors can receive the passes regardless of if they signed the petition or not, he said. Staff also shared via Facebook that people could sign the recall petiton at their location, including mention of the passes.
Other community Facebook pages shared the store's post, "and that's what stirred everything up," Barton said.
Debate stirred on the issue on a Facebook page that caters to area residents, Top of the Rock, after a post shared to the page stated, “For those of you who have lost confidence in Jared Polis, you can sign his recall petition at DCF today, you will also receive two free-range passes when you sign.” The post was later edited but users posted screenshots of the original message in the comments.
One commenter said she received free range passes from DCF Guns but had to sign the petition first. She also clarified she would have signed the petition regardless of the alleged offer. Barton said they looked into that claim and determined staff had not required anyone to sign before offering them passes.
A spokeswoman confirmed the secretary of state's office began receiving complaints about the alleged bribe on July 16. The office had received 25 as of July 17.
“Our office did contact the proponent of the ballot initiative and requested that they immediately cease these types of activities,” said spokeswoman Serena Woods. “They indicated that they would stop, and make sure that their volunteers were not doing this kind of thing.”
State law prohibits offering or accepting any money or “thing of value” to sign petitions. Offering or accepting such a bribe is a misdemeanor, according to C.R.S. 1-13-401.
“If folks are doing this, it could be considered a misdemeanor, a criminal misdemeanor. So, we don't actually have the authority to do anything, but the district attorney does,” Woods said.
As of July 17, the secretary of state's office had not been in contact with the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office over the matter, Woods said.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said July 18 it had not received any requests for an investigation into the issue and that law enforcement had not flagged them on the incident. The district attorney's office includes investigators who look into election fraud claims but no one has complained with the office, the spokeswoman said.
Woods said if people see election conduct “that they're concerned about, they should continue to contact" the secretary of state's office.
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