Aurora Shooting Survivor Stephen Barton Criticizes Debate For Lack Of Discussion On Gun Violence

Stephen Barton speaks to reporters after a meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 3
Stephen Barton speaks to reporters after a meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in New York. )Barton is a survivor of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and is featured in the latest Mayors Against Illegal Guns advertisement demanding a plan on gun violence from presidential candidates. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON -- Despite the fact that Wednesday night's presidential debate in Denver took place about 10 miles away from the site of the July mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. and six miles from the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, gun violence never came up.

Stephen Barton, a survivor of the Aurora shooting, was disappointed by moderator Jim Lehrer and the candidates. "They acted as if they had moved on completely," he told The Huffington Post in an interview. He said that given the mass shootings that occurred over the summer and gun violence in the city of Chicago, the issue merited attention.

"It really does blow my mind that it doesn't receive some attention," Barton said. "It's easy to think for some people that it will never affect them personally."

Barton, a 2012 Syracuse University graduate and native of Southbury, Conn., was hit in the face, neck, chest and arms by shotgun pellets in the Aurora shooting, having stopped in the city while on a cross-country bike trip with a friend. The gunman killed 12 and wounded 57 others.

Barton is living in New York City and working as a Policy and Outreach Assistant at Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that is co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He starred in an ad by the group that ran from Monday to Wednesday in Washington, D.C. and Colorado. "So when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself: Who has a plan to stop gun violence? Let's demand a plan." he said in the ad.

While Barton believes Lehrer didn't moderate the debate particularly well, he laid the blame on the candidates. "Obama and Mitt Romney each had an opportunity to speak candidly in their personal statements … in both cases, gun violence was completely absent. They owned the responsibility for this as much."

Gun policy was not the only issue that went unmentioned during the debate. Immigration, women's rights, abortion, unions, gay rights, foreclosure reform, the automobile bailout and climate change were not discussed.

Neither Mitt Romney nor President Barack Obama have called for new gun control laws. Romney opposes them outright, while the Obama administration has argued that passing new laws would be too difficult in the current political climate and it's preferable to work within existing law.

Both candidates have a record that's "mixed at best," Barton said, noting that Romney signed an assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts while Obama repealed a rule prohibiting guns to be carried in national parks.

Barton said that his gunshot wounds are healing. He said that he still had difficulty raising his left arm, describing it at about 50 percent.

He is hopeful that the issue of gun violence will be raised in the next debate. "Because it's a town hall, I'm hoping that a more diverse set of questions will be presented," he said, referring to the Oct. 16 debate in Hempstead, N.Y.



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