Friday, July 19, 2013

Pro-Gun Extremists Crash A Remembrance Ceremony For The Aurora Shooting

(UPDATED -- see below)

Today, July 20, is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting. 17 people were shot dead, and another 70 were injured, including children.  20 minutes into the movie, a mentally ill man, James Eagan Holmes, burst in and opened fire.  As with so many other mass shootings, Holmes was heavily armed with a semi-assault rifle with an extended ammo clip (holding 100 rounds!), a shotgun, and handgun, and armored with a ballistics vest and helmet.  It was the single largest shooting by a lone gunman in American history, when you include both dead and injured.

What followed were statements from those of us calling, once again, for common sense gun laws to curtail such shootings, a statement from the President, and the burials and memorial services across the nation.  Since then, the state of Colorado has enacted sensible reforms

And what did the pro-gun side try do after the slaughter?  Did they propose anything to reduce availability of guns to lunatics?  Of course not.  Instead, they pounded their chests about how, if only they could have been there with concealed handguns, they would have saved the day.  They tried to ignore the shooting.  They opposed any reforms (even to the point of attempting a recall on politicians that supported reforms there).  And, of course, there were the inevitable wacko pro-gun conspiracy theories that there was an unseen accomplice helping Holmes, that the “Illuminati” were behind it, or even that the government had staged the whole thing to promote “gun control,” all of which were really attempts to sidetrack the debate about what should really be done. 

Given the trauma suffered by Aurora, and the sheer number of dead and injured, it is only fitting and proper to have a remembrance ceremony to remember the event one year later and those who, living and dead, experienced the horror of it.  Naturally there will be a reading of names of victims, words about them, and statements about what people feel should be done to prevent another madman from carrying out such a deed again.

One remembrance ceremony will be held at the Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and will include the reading of names, not just of Aurora victims, but all victims who have died to gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting, too.  It’s a chance for the community to come together in remembrance and to discuss what can be done to stop it from happening again.  It is one stop on a trip with multiple stops for a MAIG bus.

And what is the gun lobby doing?  Are they joining in the remembrance?  Holding one of their own?  Of course not.  Acknowledging the deaths of innocents is too inconvenient for their “more guns in more places” argument.  Instead, they’re staging a protest within sight of the remembrance ceremony.  Rude and offensive!  And it’s complements of a pro-gun extremist group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (which bills itself as "Colorado's only no-compromise gun rights organization"), and advertised by

From an article:

Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, denied his group was being insensitive and said his members would be respectful. 
He accused Mayors Against Illegal Guns and its founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of politicizing the Aurora massacre to promote gun control. 
"Mayor Bloomberg is using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone," Brown said.

Nevermind that Mayor Bloomberg won’t be there.

And how, exactly, is this “walking all over graves” when victims and their families are taking part in the ceremony?

Stephen Barton is one of those survivors from the Aurora shooting who will be attending.  He is now part of MAIG.  In an email to supporters, he wrote about the Aurora remembrance ceremony:

One year ago today, I stopped in Aurora, Colorado on a cross-country bike trip with my best friend. We decided to go to a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, and that's how I became a survivor of gun violence. 
I was shot with more than two dozen shotgun pellets in the face, neck, hands, chest, shoulder, and forearm. But I was lucky. I survived, and I've spent the past year working to keep what happened to me from happening to other Americans. 
In that year, Colorado has led the way by passing common-sense public safety laws. Sadly, our leaders in Washington have done nothing to follow that lead and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Today, I'm asking you to remember those who died in Aurora and demand action from our members of Congress.

The pro-gunners responded to Barton with rude and offensive statements.  Here is what one had to say to Barton on a pro-gun online forum:
Your first mistake was going to a theater in a “Gun Free Zone” where only criminals will be carrying. Plus, what does getting shot with a shotgun have to do with semi-auto rifles? Your problem is you don’t have a man card.

Said another there:
Sweet. If someone takes a shot at me, Stephen Barton will be there to jump in front of the bullet. 
Sounds like a win for everybody.

Comments on the bus tour at another pro-gun online forum were equally as rude and offensive.  Said one:
Ya know....roofing nails have this uncanny habit of landing "point-up" when they fall off your back tail gate.....just saying

Said another:
People outta egg the SOBs bus as it drives by, followed by a Brooklyn salute. 
Sadly, the gun lobby has suggested throwing eggs at the MAIG bus as it arrives.  Just check out the banner
they are passing around online from Ammoland (see picture, at right).  Just another example of their rudeness and confrontational behavior.

It’s increasingly common for the pro-gun lobby and their extremist supporters to engage in such thoughtless behavior.  The public is turning against their failed and dangerous philosophy.  Naturally that makes them feel threatened, leading to increasingly confrontational behavior.  Showing up with openly-carried guns at state capitals and gun violence prevention rallies.  So their attempt the throw the remembrance ceremony in Aurora comes as no surprise.  After all, it is hardly surprising that people who carry guns around and prepare themselves to kill people with them would be willing to rudely confront those who think it’s a bad idea.

I think a Colorado state representative from Aurora, and mother of a shooting victim, sums it up best when she talked about the pro-gun plan to crash the remembrance ceremony:
"I think it's a slap in the face of the people who are suffering the loss of a loved one," said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora. Fields' district includes the theater where 12 people were killed and 70 injured one year ago Saturday, and she plans to participate in the remembrance ceremony. 
Fields' son was shot and killed in 2005 to keep him from testifying in a murder trial.
The gun guys only hurt their own cause.  Personally, I hope they continue to do so.  It puts on exhibit to the public the reprehensible behavior I see from them online every day.

UPDATE (7/20/13):  Both the remembrance ceremony and the pro-gun protest occurred as planned.  At one point, one of the pro-gun protesters stood behind the ceremony podium with a protest sign until rangers made him move.  Naturally, some of the pro-gun guys had their guns with them, including the protest organizer, and wore shirts that read "We will not comply" (implying that they would be willing to break any gun-related law if they don't agree with it, since they are pro-criminal).  

Many survivors and victims' family members spoke.  Their statements, from the article:

"I think that Coloradans get it, that something must change," said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the theater. ...  

For his part, Stephen Barton, who was wounded in Aurora, said, "You shouldn't wait until it affects you to start caring about it." 
"I never thought I would ever be affected by gun violence personally," Barton added.  ... 

"Why wait any longer?" asked Carlee Soto, whose sister was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn. "The time for change is now."  ...
More statements, from another article and video of the event, which has further comments from survivors and families of victims:
Barton was joined at the remembrance event by Coni Sanders, a daughter of teacher Dave Sanders, who was one of 13 people who died when two teenaged gunmen opened fire at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
"Today, my father stands with me," she said. "He died saving hundreds of students and saving other families from the horror we experience every day."  ... 

Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed last year in Aurora, wondered aloud how long the debate about unrestricted access to guns must continue. "There must be common-sense solutions to these issues."
HERE is video of Aurora survivor Stephen Barton telling his story: