AURORA, Colorado—In the past 13 years, few states have witnessed the horrific bloodshed from mass shootings that Colorado has. The state grieved in 1999 when 13 innocent people were killed at Columbine High School, and it mourned again last year when 12 people were gunned down as they watched The Dark Knight Rises in an Aurora movie theater.
After the Columbine massacre, Colorado residents pushed to close the gun show loophole, whereby anyone can buy a weapon from a private dealer at a gun show without having to undergo a background check first. When the legislature wouldn’t even pass the bill in committee, residents took matters into their own hands, organizing a drive to put the issue up to a statewide referendum in the 2000 election. Over 70 percent of Coloradans voted to close the loophole.
Still, another glaring loophole exists: private sales outside of gun shows. Even though private sellers at gun shows are required to run background checks, anyone can still purchase a weapon—no background check required—from private sellers online and elsewhere. ThinkProgress showed recently how anyone could purchase 4 AR-15s, the same weapon used in the Aurora massacre, in 20 minutes with no background check by contacting private online sellers.
Now, just like after Columbine, the Aurora shooting has galvanized Colorado residents to close the private seller loophole once and for all by requiring universal background checks on all gun sales.
ThinkProgress recently traveled to Colorado and spoke with lawmakers, family members of people killed at Columbine and Aurora, and gun owners about the push for universal background checks. They shared their own personal stories and how the state is rallying around the push for smarter gun laws. “We make it too doggone easy for the wrong people to get guns,” Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed at Columbine, told ThinkProgress. “So the question is, are we gonna do prevention, or are we not? Otherwise, we’re going to continue reporting these stories and say, ‘gee, why couldn’t we do something?'”
We also spoke with Don Macalady, a lifelong gun owner who founded a group Hunters Against Gun Violence to push for stronger gun laws, State Rep. Rhonda Fields, who represents Aurora and is leading the push in the Colorado legislature to crack down on gun violence, Dave Hoover, whose nephew AJ Boik was shot and killed in the Aurora massacre, and attendees at a Colorado Springs gun show.
Watch their story: