Gun control supporters, opponents gather at Aurora shooting memorial
Politics became part of a memorial Friday to remember people recently killed in shootings like the Aurora theater shooting a year ago.
The No More Names tour, part of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stopped at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora on the day before the anniversary of the theater shooting.
The tour includes victims and relatives of people killed by guns in the past year. They share their experiences and emphasize the need for more gun control laws, saying they're tired of reading the names of those killed.
Following the tour is the group Gun Rights Across America, which holds counter-demonstrations beside tour members. Several gun owners invited to the event stood in a designated area and held signs opposing gun control.
A strong presence by law enforcement officers kept tensions in check.
Alicia Perez, a GRAA spokeswoman, said her group expresses sympathy for shooting victims, and is non-confrontational during demonstrations. She said her group did not specifically decide to be present on the day before the Aurora shooting anniversary, and is only following NMN as it has in previous events.
"We're just expressing our opposition to Bloomberg for his influence on our state, and also express our opposition to the (gun control) legislation that's been passed," Perez said.
Rob Blancken of Colorado Springs was one of the sign-holders and said the problem is not guns, but bad people who use them.
"If one person in that theater had a concealed-carry permit, it would have been James Holmes (charged in the theater shooting) lying on a slab in the morgue, and not so many innocent people," Blancken said.
Still, the NMN group continues to push for more gun control laws.
"I'm praying and believing that their hearts and minds might be changed," said Rev. Del Phillips, a guest speaker, about gun control opponents. "This is not a debatable issue. I'm praying that other people who are in the middle on this issue will start to speak out."
Stephen Barton, a survivor of the Aurora shooting, said the federal government should become more involved in gun control.
"Otherwise, guns will start flowing to criminals from states with with weaker laws. A state can accomplish only so much on its own. We need meaningful action in Washington."
The names of victims in the Aurora shooting, the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the 1999 Columbine shooting near Denver are among those being read continuously at the park until 12:38 a.m. Saturday -- the exact time of the Aurora tragedy. A candlelight vigil is scheduled shortly afterward.
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