It's Time for Us to Stand Strong

On December 13 we watched with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts as news broke of yet another school shooting in Colorado, this time at Arapahoe High School. Just minutes from Columbine, on the day before the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a gunman walked into his high school, reportedly with every intention of causing maximum harm. What immediately went through my mind, and undoubtedly the minds of most Coloradans, was, "Not again."

How many more times will we have to endure this senseless violence that violates the safety of our children and our communities before we say enough is enough? As students and faculty at Arapahoe High School and their families and neighbors try to process what happened, we all come together to remember another student who has become the latest victim of gun violence, simply because she was doing exactly what she should have been doing that day -- going to school. We need to put an end to gun violence and we need to stand strong together to do so.

On April 20, 1999, my world was changed forever when my son Daniel was killed at Columbine High School. But the violence that took 15 lives and injured 24 others that day didn't just change my world, it changed everything. At least that's what it felt like because in the weeks and months following that horrific event, we worked together as a community and country to support each other and our kids and to take a serious look at how lax guns laws allow people who shouldn't be allowed to get guns to purchase them through loopholes. Even the National Rifle Association supported efforts to enact instant background checks.

Here in Colorado, we took action after Columbine to close what was known as the "gun show loophole," which allowed anybody to purchase a gun from a private seller at a gun show without a background check. We closed it by a vote of the people, with 70 percent voting in support of Amendment 22. Since then, Colorado has exported significantly fewer guns used in crimes to other states. In 2000, we were the 17th largest exporter of guns later found at crime scenes in other states. A year after we closed the gun show loophole we ranked 27th, and by 2009 we ranked 32nd.

I was incredibly proud to be a part of the team that passed that law. But as time went on, interest waned in passing additional reasonable laws to save lives, and we failed to finish the work we started. Now, over 14 years later, our country continues to be plagued by senseless gun violence. After the Aurora Theater shooting, some passionate legislators and community members started talking about how to prevent another massacre of that magnitude from happening again. The tragedy at Newtown that took place just a few months later only confirmed what we already knew -- that enough is enough; it was time for us to stand strong and keep fighting for common sense laws that would protect our communities.

As a result, earlier this year the Colorado Legislature passed a sensible law to require background checks on private gun sales, and closed a gaping loophole in our gun laws. Private sales make up as much as 40 percent of all gun purchases and now criminals can't avoid a background check just by going online or to a private seller. We also passed common sense measures to limit high-capacity magazines like the ones used in Aurora and Tucson, to 15 rounds or fewer, and to protect domestic violence victims by taking guns out of the hands of their attackers. These new laws mark a crucial step forward for our state and have demonstrated to the rest of the country that common sense can prevail over the din and money of the gun lobby, including the NRA, who now oppose even basic policies like background checks.

Each of these laws continues to have the support of a majority of Coloradans, according to public opinion polls. As recently as this November, a Quinnipiac survey found 85 percent of Coloradans support background checks for all gun sales. But a vocal minority is attempting to bring our democracy to its knees. We cannot let our public safety be hijacked by a tyranny of the minority. We cannot afford to let the new laws that are already preventing criminals and domestic abusers from buying guns to be weakened or gutted by these extremists. Laws won't stop all gun violence, but they're an important part of the solution -- and far better than doing nothing or promoting weakened laws, as extremists propose.

We need our elected officials to stand strong during the next legislative session and fight the gun lobby and other extremists' efforts to roll back the progress we've made. We need our communities to stand strong too. I don't want to see more people wait to be personally affected by gun violence before deciding it's time to do something about it.