Dozens lie down at Capitol for Columbine event
April 20, 2009
DENVER ” Dozens of people held a “lie-down” at Colorado’s state Capitol Monday to demand stricter gun control and mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.
Thirteen people representing those killed at Columbine lay on the pavement at the west steps of the Capitol with blue and white ribbons draped around their necks, the official colors of the suburban Denver school.
The deep toll of a hand bell marked each of the 13 victims’ names as they were read aloud. Others kneeled next to those in the circle as the names of the 23 injured in the April 20, 1999, attack also were read.
Among them was Mallory Sanders, granddaughter of slain teacher Dave Sanders, and Steve Wewer, godfather of slain student Daniel Mauser.
Daniel’s father, Tom Mauser, wore the Vans shoes his son was wearing the day he was killed.
He listed the names of all 13 people killed from memory. “They did not kill their spirits. They did not kill ours, either,” he told the crowd.
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Monday’s event was sponsored by Colorado Ceasefire, a gun control group. A top priority is requiring background checks at gun shows nationwide.
Ten years ago, Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, armed with guns and pipe bombs, killed 12 students and Sanders. Harris and Klebold later killed themselves.
Harris and Klebold obtained three of the four weapons they used in the massacre from an 18-year-old friend at a gun show, where she wasn’t subjected to a background check that she said might have given her cold feet about buying the guns. The friend later insisted she believed the guns would be used for hunting or collecting.
Colorado voters closed the so-called gun show loophole the year after the shootings by overwhelmingly passing a citizens initiative. Colorado lawmakers had rejected a similar measure.
Today, people who buy guns at a gun show in Colorado must undergo criminal background checks by a licensed gun dealer, just as they would if they bought a gun from a federally licensed gun store.
On Monday, the Capitol crowd included families of survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, as well as Lily Habtu, who was wounded at the university.
Above, the U.S. and Colorado state flags were at half-staff, as ordered by Gov. Bill Ritter. Thirteen white lilies in gold-foil-wrapped pots were lined up. A giant blue ribbon memorializing Columbine hung from the outside of the Capitol’s gold dome.
Richard Castaldo was partially paralyzed at Columbine.
“I don’t necessarily think we need to get rid of guns entirely,” he said. But he insisted background checks are needed at gun shows. “We need to know who they are.”
“It certainly was a wake-up call,” Wewer said. “Yet here we are 10 years later, and we still haven’t woken up. Something needs to be done to abate violence in our society.”
Betty Shoels, whose nephew Isaiah Shoels was killed at Columbine, thought about lying down to represent one of the 13. But she said it was too emotional.
“When I go to these things, I can still see the position Isaiah was in. He’s still my loved one,” she said.
Associated Press Writer Alysia Patterson contributed to this report.