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Webb Fights State Preemption, Demands Gun Show Background Checks Conference President Takes “Wall of Death” to Denver

By Ed Somers


With the Conference of Mayors wall of victims of gun violence in cities serving as a backdrop, Conference President Wellington E. Webb stood in Denver with a strong coalition of advocates in calling for the Colorado Legislature to pass meaningful gun safety legislation, and to reject a preemption of local gun safety laws.

The afternoon press conference, held on February 14, came as information was becoming available regarding yet another tragic shooting of two Columbine High School students that morning. The press conference had been scheduled well in advance of the news of the student deaths, but served as an eerie reminder of the continued toll of illegal gun use.

The names on the wall come from a survey conducted by the Conference entitled The Death Toll Since Columbine: Victims of Gun Violence in Cities. A copy of the report can be found at www.usmayors.org/uscm . As Mayor Webb stated in opening the press conference, “Many observers – both public and private – felt that Columbine was a defining moment that would finally prompt our state Legislature and our U.S. Congress to establish a meaningful and sensible regulation of firearms.”

“This did not happen. Congress failed to act, and closer to home our state Legislature has failed to pass even the modest bi-partisan proposals put forward by Governor Owens and Attorney General Salazar,” Webb added.

The Legislature has rejected a series of gun safety proposals, the most significant being a mandatory background check for sales at gun shows. This same provision, strongly supported by the Conference of Mayors, is stalled in the U.S. Congress despite evidence that closing the loophole could save lives (see story on page 16.)

At the same time, the Legislature has been proposing to preempt virtually hundreds of gun safety ordinances – anything stronger than state law. A compromise on this is being developed by the City in cooperation with the Governor’s Office, but final action still rests with the Legislature.

Joining Mayor Webb in the press conference were leaders from the gun safety organization SAFE (Safe Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic) Colorado, including Tom Mauser, father of slain Columbine student Daniel Mauser, and Co-Presidents John Head and Arnie Grossman.

Other participants included U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, Denver City Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds, Colorado State House of Representatives Minority Leader Ken Gordon, Kathleen Hopkins with the Million Mom March, Barbara O’Brien from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Rev. Paul Martin.

“This wall is a startling reminder that the victims of gun violence are real people, they are not black and white photos in the newspapers,” said Mauser.

“For each one of these names, there are two parents, four grandparents, many friends and other relatives,” Mauser added.

John Head of SAFE Colorado stressed, “What the Colorado Legislature lacks in common sense will be supplied by Colorado voters when they consider an initiative measure...” in November on gun safety which will include the background check at gun shows.

Mayor Webb spoke of the need for stricter enforcement of existing law, saying, “Some of us have accepted the NRA’s call for stricter enforcement, and we in turn call on them to support Congressional funding increases for U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws, so that their policy position is more than rhetoric.”

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