The video created by the national organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to mark the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre on December 14 (see it below) counts 26 school shootings in the year after that tragic day in Newtown, Connecticut. But since the clip was completed, there have already been two more, including Friday's attack at Arapahoe High. The head of MDAGSA's Colorado chapter sees this latest act of violence as a reason for change, and she doesn't thinkrecall backlash against new state gun laws will doom reform efforts.
At first blush, eighteen-year-old student Karl Pierson's awful assault at Arapahoe wouldn't seem to demand additional legislation, since he appears to have legally bought the shotgun with which he wounded Claire Davis, who remains comatose in critical but stable condition at this writing.
However, the main MDAGSA Facebook page considers the rules that allowed Pierson to make such a purchase as problematic in the extreme. A post about the shooting reads: "Colorado law allows eighteen-year-olds to buy shotguns and other rifles, but you must be 21 to purchase a handgun. It would have been more difficult for the gunman to purchase Sudafed than it was for him to buy bullets on his way to school that morning."
When asked if further reform to gun laws like this one might bring something good out of a thoroughly horrific incident, Colorado MSDAGSA chapter head Jennifer Hope, who lives in the Denver metro area, says, "I don't think there's any positive from this situation. Nothing. It's devastating. A girl is fighting for her life right now, and the shooter is also dead from gun violence. It's a horrible situation. Nothing good can come of it."
At the same time, though, Hope, a mother of eight kids between eight and thirty (she's also a grandma), acknowledges that "we do need to use incidents like this one to energize our base and get more moms out there and speaking up. More moms need to write their congressman, talk to their neighbors, talk to teachers and family members, so we can get some real gun laws in this country going."
Like so many Americans, Hope was thunderstruck by the Sandy Hook shootings and "realized I had to do something." So she looked for an organization trying to make a difference and found MDAGSA. "I became chapter leader," she notes, "and now we have 1,000 members in Colorado and 120,000 members nationwide. There are chapters in every state, and we're gaining momentum. We're going to get this done."
Post-Sandy Hook, Colorado led the way when it came to gun reform, passing laws calling for background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines. But afterward, gun-rights advocates pushed to recall many of those instrumental in passing the legislation, with both Senator John Morse and Representative Angela Giron losing bids to stay in office and Senator Evie Hudak resigning.
Hope's take on these developments?
Continue for more of our interview with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America's Jennifer Hope, including a photo and video. "I'm so proud to live in a state where we were able to get these laws passed," she says -- and while "we did have the defeats of the recalls and Evie Hudak resigning, that's a direct consequence of how huge the legislation was that got passed. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon, and change takes time. It's not going to happen overnight. But the change we've seen in Colorado shows that we can make progress.
"Gun-rights advocates want us to believe they have this much power -- that they can just take anybody out of office," she goes on. "But isn't that a wake-up call here and in all states to stand strong behind their legislators? We've got to support them -- support legislators who are making a difference and keep them in office. We can't let this happen again."
One way to do that, Hope believes, is for more people to express their belief in further gun-law reform -- and that's been happening, she says: After the Arapahoe shooting, "we saw a huge jump in our numbers. They've gone so crazy in Colorado that we can barely keep track of them. And that just reiterates to me that moms have had enough, and when they speak up, they're powerful. We're going to do things the way Mothers Against Drunk Drivers did; they're our model."
As for specific goals, Hope says "we want to require background checks on gun and ammunition purchases all across the country. We want to ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds. We want to track the sale of large quantities of ammunition and ban online sales. We want to establish product-safety oversight of guns and ammunition and require child-safety gun technology; it's surprising to me that we don't already do that. And we want to support policies of public institutions that promote gun safety and counter the gun industry's efforts to weaken gun laws at a state level."
In Hope's view, "we're just getting started. American moms are going to continue to fight for gun reform until Congress acts -- and until they do something to find real, meaningful solutions, we're not going to give up."
For more information about the Colorado branch of Moms Demand Action of Gun Sense in America, visit the organization's Facebook page. Here's the video marking the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our News archive circa December 2012: "Columbine to Newtown: A tragic list of school shootings since 1999."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.