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Photos: Aurora, Columbine families hold emotional conference urging gun reforms

After a week of silence since the Sandy Hook massacre, the National Rifle Association today said that more guns need to be part of the strategy to stop this kind of violence. Meanwhile, families of the victims of the Aurora shooting and the Columbine tragedy came together for an emotional press conference where they begged officials to enact policies that would make it harder for mass murderers to access the kinds of weapons that killed their loved ones.

Flanked by Representative Rhonda Fields and State Senator Morgan Carroll, the family of A.J. Boik, one of the twelve killed in the movie theater massacre on July 20, and the father of Daniel Mauser, a victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, came together at the State Capitol to express their horror at the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and urge officials and citizens across the country to push for meaningful policy reforms.

Elected officials at the Capitol calling for gun-policy reforms this morning.
Elected officials at the Capitol calling for gun-policy reforms this morning.
Sam Levin

Many of the family members cried during the short news conference, and said that they want to see changes so that no more families have to suffer as they have. The news conference came exactly one week after a gunman shot his way into an elementary school with the same kind of weapon that the Aurora shooter had, and slaughtered twenty small children and six adult staffers.

"My son A.J. Boik was a wonderful boy," said Theresa Hoover, in tears. "He had a very bright, bright future ahead of him. He was going to be a teacher. He wasn't in it for the money. He was in it because that was where his heart was."

She paused. "The world is a darker place. He's not here. I shouldn't have to be standing here. None of us should have to be standing here. Sandy Hook shouldn't have happened. There needs to be something done to stop the assault weapons and the mentally ill from owning guns. It's bigger than just that, but the conversation has got to start today. It should've started years ago and it's shame on us for letting it get this far."

She continued, crying in the front of a room packed with reporters and cameras: "You guys wouldn't even know who I was and I would really rather have it be that way. I don't want to have to be standing here because my son was murdered, because he went to the movie theater." A.J. Boik was eighteen when he was killed.

His uncle, Dave Hoover, stepped up to the microphone and added, "We are responsible for this world that we live in. For us to...watch this unfold every day across the country and say, 'What a tragic thing,' and not pick up the phone...as a parent, as a brother, as a relative of anybody in this world that you love...call your congressman. Call your senator. And say I want some change."

Continue for more from the news conference and for more photos.  

The pleas from Boik's grieving family members come the same week that there has been a renewed discussion of gun control and gun violence in Colorado, with two Democratic members of Congress pushing different pieces of legislation that could make it harder for criminals to access such dangerous weapons.

Dave and Theresa Hoover.
Dave and Theresa Hoover.
Sam Levin

Governor John Hickenlooper also recently said he was interested in reforms, but he was short on specifics.

Meanwhile, the NRA this morning called for guards in every school in America.

The NRA placed blame for Sandy Hook in a lot of different places, but not on guns. And Wayne LaPierre, the head of the association, said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy is a good guy with a gun."

A reporter read this quote out loud at the news conference at the Capitol today, asking Dave Hoover for his perspective.

"What we need to do is stop blaming people for what is happening in this world and start fixing the infrastructure that we live within, because if we fix the problem after everything is done, nobody's going to be around," he said. "We have to stand up and say.... Let's start right now... Let's stop killing our families out there in the streets."

He added: "Nobody wants to come in and take your gun away from you. But I don't think it's too much for us to ask that if I'm an individual who has lost their mind and wants to go wreak havoc...for the love of God, we should be able to stop that.... For us to say let's throw more guns at it. Well, there were fewer guns on the street when Columbine happened. There are more guns on the street now and look at where we stand."

On the third floor of the Capitol this morning.
On the third floor of the Capitol this morning.
Sam Levin

Carroll and Fields both said they expect to see many gun-control proposals in the next legislative cycle and, though they anticipate the debates to be contentious, the time has come for common-sense solutions.

"When you just sort of increase the influx of firearms without fixing the structural issues, you're frankly going to make the problem worse," Carroll says of the responses coming from gun-rights groups like the NRA and of the surge of gun sales in Colorado. "It's not a solution. It's a decoy."

Mauser, who has been a vocal gun-control advocate since his son died, said he has stood at too many of these press conferences and is sick of the same statements and excuses. "We want a plan for something better," he said. "We want action."

Meanwhile, in Civic Center Park all day today, activists are hosting a "Colorado Day of Peace" in honor of the Sandy Hook victims.

Continue for more photos from the Capitol and from Civic Center Park.  

The memorial table set up in Civic Center today.
The memorial table set up in Civic Center today.
Sam Levin
Tom Mauser, gun-control advocate and father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser.
Tom Mauser, gun-control advocate and father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser.
Sam Levin
Free meditation in Civic Center Park as part of Colorado Peace Day.
Free meditation in Civic Center Park as part of Colorado Peace Day.
Sam Levin
Dave Hoover.
Dave Hoover.
Sam Levin

Continue for more photos.  

Civic Center Park.
Civic Center Park.
Sam Levin
Civic Center.
Civic Center.
Sam Levin
Dave and Theresa Hoover.
Dave and Theresa Hoover.
Sam Levin
Meditation in Civic Center.
Meditation in Civic Center.
Sam Levin

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Stephen Barton, Aurora victim and gun control advocate, grew up ten minutes from Newtown"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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