In Denver, in the rotunda of the City-County Building, on Saint Valentines Day, February 14, we unveiled for the second time this year The United States Conference of Mayors “Wall of Death”. In Washington at our Winter Meeting, Mayor Wellington E. Webb unveiled the wall listing the deaths of victims from 100 cities since the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999. In Washington he focused on the proposed federal legislation requiring ‘instacheck’ at gun shows. Congress has refused to act on this legislation. In Denver, Mayor Webb focused on The State Legislature where the passage of the same type of law is being denied by that entity.
It was a somber press conference. Hours before The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ wall was unveiled, two more Columbine students, this time teenage sweethearts Stephanie Hart, 16 and Nicholas Kunselman, 15, were shot dead in a Subway Sandwich shop in town. You have to wonder how much more the Denver region can take. Mayor Webb said at the press conference, you have to wonder how many more children from his area will be shot down before The State Legislature passes common sense gun safety legislation.
This is, after all, Colorado. Cities like Rifle are named after guns. The culture is even instilled in supposedly unbiased television reports and this attitude came through at the press conference when a reporter questioned the group of concerned citizens about the rights of law-abiding citizens buying guns at gun shows. He missed the whole point because the proposed legislation would not stop law-abiding citizens but it would stop felons. Mr. Ken Gordon, Minority Leader, Colorado State House of Representatives, had to tell the channel 11 reporter that a convicted felon is not a citizen who has always abided by the law.
Even in a state like Colorado though, the polls are in the nineties reflecting Coloradans in support for the gun safety measures Mayor Webb and other Colorado leaders are supporting. Dead children are causing concern and giving those opposing gun safety some heartburn.
Persons participating in the press conference were: Mayor Wellington E. Webb, Tom Strickland, U.S. Attorney, Cathy Reynolds, Denver City Councilwoman, John Head, SAFE Colorado, Arnie Grossman, SAFE Colorado, Ken Gordon, Minority Leader, Colorado State House of Representatives, Barbara O’Brien, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Kathleen Hopkins, Million Mom March, Bill Ritter, Denver District Attorney, Reverend Paul Martin and Tom Mauser, father of slain Columbine student Daniel Mauser, member of SAFE.
Of course, when Mr. Mauser stood up with a button depicting his son, Daniel, shot to death at Columbine, you would think a reporter would not come on so strong but the Channel 11 guy did. Mr. Mauser thanked The U.S. Conference of Mayors for bringing the wall of victims to Denver but he said that while the wall of victims now stands in the City-County Building, there’s a wall of denial in The State Legislature. The wall of denial according to Mr. Mauser, is built of “rhetoric, lies and campaign contributions” from the gun lobby – but he says the “wall of denial” is starting to crack because the people of Colorado are for the gun safety measures that would require a ‘instacheck’ at gun shows.
Former National League of Cities President Cathy Reynolds, a councilwoman at large, came forward to support the group’s effort and she cited the numerous laws that have been passed by the City and County of Denver to ensure gun safety. And yet, she said, the killing continues.
Others came forward too – and one group especially will keep coming. It’s the mothers of America. And they call their political movement The Million Mom March. Ms. Hopkins, the Colorado coordinator, says she saw the murders at Columbine and said enough is enough. Like the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), the Mothers for gun safety are organizing throughout the nation. The Mothers group will bring a million mothers to Washington on Mothers Day, May 14. In cities across America, mothers will lead local marches. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed the Million Mom March and many mayors will be involved in their own special way.
The unveiling of the “Wall of Death” in Denver after the unveiling of the “Wall of Death” in Washington is somewhat different in that, for the most part, The Conference of Mayors has lent its effort to influence federal issues and laws the mayors have sought from Congress. In this instance, the same goal, gun safety, i.e. ‘instachecks’ at gun shows, is before The United States Congress and The State Legislature of Colorado at the same time.
This is a prime and most graphic case of The State Legislature housed in the gold dome of the State Capital not being in touch with the City and County of Denver lawmakers housed in the majestic building just a few blocks away.
The “Wall of Death” now stands in the Denver City County building and as Mr. Mauser – said – The Wall of Denial is in The State Legislature. Unfortunately, the “Wall of Death” will expand with more names from cities. The question is will the wall of denial get bigger and stronger. The mothers don’t think so. They have started to chip away at Congress and State Legislatures. They won’t stop once they get started – and politicians need to pay attention. Its about the rights of children. Its about our children, some babies, some teenage lovers – all our children. Armed with public opinions and graphic images and stories of dead children, mothers and to other concerned citizens like Mayor Webb and the groups represented in Denver on Valentines Day 2000 will not stop until gun safety measures stop disturbed people, lunatics, felons and children from buying guns at a gun fair like you buy cotton candy at a county fair.
Mayor Webb told Washington and Congress last month that people will come later and he warned that they will keep coming back to Washington registering their concern for gun safety. Unfortunately, this issue isn’t going away. Gunning down innocent children moves people to do extraordinary things, especially if its your child or someone you know. Maybe it moves you because it bothers you that innocent babies and teenagers are getting shot down and you see it on television. Its starting to bother a lot of people now because its now white suburban kids that are being shot dead.
In central cities, black kids get shot quite often and it doesn’t seem to bother people – or at least it didn’t for many years. But now with Columbine and other instances involving a lot of white male anger and alienation resulting in the killing in a lot of beautiful, peaceful and almost pristine places where people fled to get away from the killing, the concern takes on a more American or national concern that might result in changes.Mayor Webb will continue to speak out for common sense legislation at the state and local level that will keep guns away from criminals, mentally impaired persons, and kids.