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Colorado advocates commemorate those killed by gun violence, push for stricter laws

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DENVER — After her sister died trying to defend students against a mass shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School ten years ago, Jane Dougherty swore she’d spend her life fighting to ensure a similar tragedy never struck again.

Then came STEM School Highlands Ranch. Then the King Soopers in Boulder. Then Club Q in Colorado Springs.

“It’s been sad,” Dougherty said. “Really, it’s been infuriating.”

Dougherty delivered a speech next to other anti-gun violence activists at a vigil Wednesday, Dec. 14 at First Baptist Church in Denver. The day marked 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 26 people, including 20 children, died after a shooter opened fire in the Connecticut school.

Sandy Hook 10th anniversary vigil

Families touched by gun violence gather on the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook

The vigil was a chance for people remember those killed in the Sandy Hook shooting as well as commemorate the lives of those slain in Colorado’s mass shootings. After advocates delivered remarks inside the church, participants stood between the church and the State Capitol across the street and read the names of those who’ve lost their lives to gun violence in Colorado. Colorado Ceasefire, a political action committee that activists formed to push for tighter gun reform laws, hosted the event. 

Many speakers acknowledged the frequency of such events in the Denver area and said those in power need to push harder to ensure more lives are not lost to gun violence. Since 1993, the state has seen at least 10 shootings with three fatalities or more.

“Sadly, we’ve had five school shootings within a 30-minute drive from one another,” said Kelly Murphy, mother of two shooting survivors from STEM Highlands Ranch. Murphy’s two children were 9 and 11 years old at the time of the shooting in May 2019.

“We honor all students and families who’ve been affected by gun violence since Columbine happened,” Murphy said. 

Stephanie Vigil, Democratic representative-elect for Colorado’s House District 16 in Colorado Springs, said she hopes to use her power as a legislator to ensure change in the state, both for tighter gun restrictions and more LGBTQ+ awareness.

“We have a red flag law that’s only as good as it is utilized,” Vigil said. “We have a lot of work to do, and anytime that someone is angry or not well or has been radicalized, that’s a lot of risk factor.”

Vigil’s district includes Club Q, an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs where a 22-year-old suspect is accused of killing five people in the shooting and injuring 18 more. As she prepares to enter her first legislative session, Vigil said she hopes to focus on gun violence prevention, mental health resources and LGBTQ rights, all of which are related to the mass shooting in her district.

“I hope that Colorado Springs has the ability to turn out for all that is good about our city and heal,” Vigil said.

Others who spoke at the Wednesday event said losing a family member to gun violence pushed them into an advocacy role, though they wish they didn’t have to take on such a heavy responsibility after what they believe is a preventable tragedy.

“I realized I had to do something and I feel that this is my way of honoring him,” said Tom Mauser, father of Daniel Mauser, a student killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.


Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at alisonberg@rmpbs.org.

Jeremy Moore is a senior multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at jeremymoore@rmpbs.org.

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