People are always telling Tom Mauser why tougher hand gun legislation won’t work.
But Mauser,whose 15-year-old son Daniel was killed in the Columbine school shooting on April 20,1999,is always ready with a response for those who disagree with his stand on stricter gun control.
They tell him that no matter what laws are enacted,criminals will get their guns somewhere.
“Then make them,” he counters forcefully.
And they tell him that even if the government mandated background checks on gun buyers at gun shows – like the one where Daniel’s killers bought their guns – the students from Columbine would have gotten their guns elsewhere.
“We’ll never know,” is Mauser’s response.
Mauser was one of three speakers Wednesday who addressed attendees of a national conference sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,formerly called Handgun Control,about successes and struggles of getting handgun control legislation passed.
The audience consisted of members of organizations advocating hand gun control such as the Million Mom March.
Mauser advised that the activists always remember their message and not get sidetracked by opponents who claim that handgun control means taking away an individual’s right to have a gun.
“You have to stay on message,” Mauser said. “What it really comes down to is keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”
Mauser and other activists from the SAFE Colorado organization worked last year to pass legislation in the state that closed a loophole in gun laws that did not require background checks from all vendors at gun shows.
The killers in the Columbine shooting purchased their guns at a gun show,without a background check and since then,one of the students has said he would not have purchased the guns from a vendor who required that he fill out forms for a background check.
When the measure failed in the Colorado legislature,SAFE Colorado vowed to put an initiative on the ballot in November of 2000 that allowed voters to close the gun show loophole themselves.
The group needed 62,000 signatures on a petition. It got 110,000.
The issue was put on the ballot,despite vocal and legal opposition by gun activists,and then it passed with the support of 70 percent of the voters.
Now Colorado requires that all buyers at gun shows undergo a criminal background check,even if they aren’t buying guns from a licensed dealer.
A similar measure won voter approval in Oregon last year and a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate this April with 21 Senate co-sponsors.
Mauser said SAFE Colorado did not try to play up the Columbine killings when it campaigned for closing the loophole.
Mauser sometimes wore Daniel’s shoes and his son’s picture in a button on his shirt when he spoke. He occasionally told stories about Daniel.
But he said he did not want the measure passed out of sympathy,he wanted the merits of the initiative to speak for themselves.
“We never talked about Columbine when we campaigned,” he said. “We didn’t have to.”
Mauser said he knows that the passage of Colorado’s hand gun control law would not have happened if not for the Columbine shooting. But he sees the legislation as a lesson the state learned from the tragedy.
“That’s how we learn lessons,” he said. “That’s how we move ahead.”
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