Theater Shooting Anniversary Draws Competing Groups on Gun Debate

July 18, 2013

The Aurora theater shooting left 12 dead and 58 injured

DENVER—An event marking the one-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting has become the latest front in Colorado’s tense stand-off over firearms.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners announced Wednesday that the group is planning a “peaceful ‘counter-rally’” at the Aurora “remembrance event” sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns as part of its national “No More Names” tour.

Both sides have accused the other of politicizing the theater tragedy, which left 12 dead and 58 injured.

Gun-control advocates argue that the rally is offensive to those mourning the victims, while gun-rights supporters contend the mayors’ group is using the anniversary to push its agenda.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was active in lobbying for the three Colorado gun-control measures signed into law in March by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“[J]oin us on Friday to show Mayor Bloomberg that the majority of Coloradans support the Second Amendment, not his radical East Coast anti-gun agenda,” said RMGO executive director Dudley Brown in the release.

The “No More Names” press conference is scheduled to begin at noon Friday at the Smoky Hill Shelter at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora. Among those slated to attend are those injured in the Century 16 theater shooting as well as victims’ family members.

Afterward, participants plan to read the names of thousands of U.S. shooting victims throughout the rest of the day, culminating in a moment of silence at 12:38 a.m. Saturday, the time of the theater massacre.

“Help us send a message to the country that it’s time to take action to reduce gun violence nationwide as we’ve done in Colorado,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) in a press release. “It’s time to stop adding names to the list of gun violence victims.”

The “No More Names” tour drew criticism last month when reports surfaced that among the names being read was that of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bomber killed by police. A survey by the Washington Examiner found that roughly 1 in 8 names were those of criminals shot by police or armed citizens in self-defense.

MAIG issued a mea culpa after Tsarnaev’s name was read at a rally in Concord, N.H., saying “it should not have happened, and we sincerely apologize.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Ceasefire compared RMGO to the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which is notorious for staging protests at soldiers’ funerals.

“Shame on them … Westboro Baptist Church and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners … Is it appropriate to stage a rally to counter a vigil?” said Colorado Ceasefire in a Facebook post.

Critics counter that if anyone should be ashamed, it’s organizers of the “No More Names” tour for piggybacking on the anniversary to promote an anti-gun message. The tour, which began in June, plans to hit 25 cities in 100 days, according to the website.

“[T]ell big city gun-grabber Bloomberg to keep his hands off of our Constitutional rights,” said Brown.

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