DENVER Family members of victims of the massacres in Aurora and Columbine High School came to the state Capitol on Friday to demand stronger gun control laws.
The Aurora legislators whose districts include the movie theater where a gunman killed 12 people in July said they would carry bills to crack down on guns, just an hour after the National Rifle Association held a defiant news conference on the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The event left little doubt that the state Capitol in 2013 will be the scene of emotional battles, as shooting victims families square off against gun-rights supporters.
Dave Hoover, uncle of AJ Boik, who was 18 when he died in the Aurora movie theater, said he grew up owning guns but was taught to respect them.
We need to make sure these weapons of destruction are treated with respect, that we do what we have to to make sure that these things are used appropriately, Hoover said.
He also called for stricter background checks.
Its harder for me to adopt a pet than it is to go in and buy a gun, he said.
Theresa Hoover, AJs mom, said the world is a darker place without him.
Guns must be kept away from the mentally ill, she said.
Its bigger than just that, but the conversation has got to start today. It should have started years ago, and shame on us for letting it get this far, she said, wiping away tears. I dont want to have to be standing here because my son was murdered because he went to the movie theater.
Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, is herself a victim of violence. In 2005, gunmen killed her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, to prevent Marshall-Fields from testifying in a murder trial. Two of the three people on Colorados death row are there for killing Marshall-Fields and Wolfe.
I truly understand what the holidays are going to be like without having your loved one with you, Fields said.
Fields did not offer specifics for what kind of bills she and her allies might carry. But on the national day of mourning for the Connecticut victims, she promised more than symbolic measures.
Im going to be moving beyond a moment of silence to taking a plan of action, Fields said.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, said violent entertainment and gun-free zones at school had put children in danger. He called on Congress to fund armed guards at every school in the country.
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, LaPierre said.
Here in Colorado, Republicans such as state Sen. Greg Brophy said they would not give ground to people who want stricter gun control.
Rather than advance ideas that will make kids safer, the Dems want to advance failed and extreme policies, Brophy said on Twitter shortly after Fields press conference.
For some family members, the problem goes beyond something the Legislature can solve.
Bill Hoover, Boiks grandfather, said the young man was his best buddy.
He said the country must make it illegal to buy guns online, but it also must embrace God in the private and public sphere.
Bring God back in our lives. I know you dont like to hear that, he said. Lets get some sense back into this society. Were insane. The whole society has gone completely bonkers.