12 students and teacher killed at Columbine to be remembered at 25th anniversary vigil

DENVER — The 12 students and one teacher killed in the Columbine High School shooting will be remembered Friday during a vigil on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

The gathering, organized by gun safety and other organizations, is the main public event to mark the anniversary, which is more subdued than in previous milestone years.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who began campaigning for gun safety after she was nearly killed in a mass shooting, will be among those speaking at the vigil. That includes Nathan Hochhalter, whose sister Anne Marie was paralyzed after being shot at Columbine. A few months after the shooting, their mother, Carla Hochhalter, took her own life.

Organizers of the vigil, which will also honor those affected by the shooting, include Colorado Ceasefire, Brady United Against Gun Violence and Colorado Faith Communities United Against Gun Violence, but they say it will not be a political event .

Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel, a sophomore who excelled in math and science, was killed at Columbine, decided to set up the vigil after learning that school officials did not plan to host a major community event like they did on the 20th anniversary . Mauser, who became an advocate for gun safety after the shooting, said he realizes it takes a lot of volunteers and money to put on such an event, but he wanted to give people a chance to come together and celebrate the passing of 25 years since the shooting. shooting, which a significant number of people can identify with.

“For those who want to think about it, it’s for them,” said Mauser, who sits on the board of Colorado Ceasefire, asking the group to help organize the event at a church near the Capitol in Denver. was to be held on the Capitol steps but was moved indoors due to expected rain.

Mauser successfully led the campaign to pass a ballot measure requiring background checks for all firearm purchasers at gun shows in 2000, after the Colorado Legislature failed to change the law. It was intended to close a loophole that allowed a friend of the Columbine shooters to obtain three of the four firearms used in the attack.

A proposal that would have required such checks at the national level, inspired by Columbine, failed in Congress in 1999 after passing the Senate but died in the House of Representatives, said Robert Spitzer, professor emeritus at the State University of New York- Cortland and author of several books on gun politics.

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore ran a gun safety agenda against Republican George W. Bush the following year, but after his position was wrongly seen as a major reason for his defeat, Democrats largely abandoned the issue for the next decade, Spitzer said. But gun safety became a more prominent political issue again after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, he said.

Without much national action on guns, Democratic-led and Republican-controlled states have taken divergent approaches to responding to mass shootings.

Those killed at Columbine included Dave Sanders, a teacher who was shot while guiding students to safety during the attack. He lay bleeding in a classroom for nearly four hours before authorities reached him. The slain students included one who wanted to be a music manager like his father, a senior and captain of the girls’ volleyball team, and a teenager who enjoyed off-roading in his beat-up Chevy pickup.

Sam Cole, another Colorado Ceasefire board member, said he hopes people will come out to remember the victims and not let their memories fade. The murdered students would now be adults in the prime of their lives with families of their own, he said.

“It’s just sad to think that as teenagers they will always be etched in our memories,” he said.