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Twenty-five years after his son was killed in Columbine, Tom Mauser reflects on what more needs to happen

Tom Mauser in 2013. He has been fighting for gun reform in Colorado and nationally for the past 25 years after his son Daniel was killed in the Columbine school shooting.
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Tom Mauser in 2013. He has been fighting for gun reform for the past 25 years after his son Daniel was killed in the Columbine school shooting.

April 20 is the 25th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

12 students and a teacher were murdered, and 24 others wounded, after two heavily armed students opened fire at the high school in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999.

Daniel Mauser, a 15-year-old sophomore, was one of those killed. His father Tom Mauser has spent the last 25 years fighting for gun reform, something that he says we are finally seeing some progress on.

“Two years ago we had the bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed, the first significant legislation in almost 30 years,” said Mauser.

One area of particular concern for Mauser has been the “gun show loophole” or the “Brady loophole,” which allowed unlicensed gun dealers to sell firearms at venues like gun shows, without completing background checks on the buyers.

Three of the guns used in the Columbine shooting were purchased months before at a gun show. An 18-year-old friend of the killers bought the guns without being subjected to a background check.

The Biden administration closed that loophole on April 11.

“And for me, that was really significant, of course,” said Mauser.

“My son Daniel had said to me two weeks before he was killed, ‘Dad, did you know there were loopholes in the Brady bill?’ And, you know, that was the gun show loophole. And we've continued to have that loophole in this country ever since, I mean, for a long, long time. So it was so heartening to see that new rule come out last week. To essentially close that gun show loophole at the national level, not just in Colorado.”

The impact of Columbine continues to reverberate across the country 25 years later, particularly in how law enforcement deals with school shootings.

“The protocol obviously for active shooters changed radically because of Columbine because of the inaction. Although certainly, it was very disappointing to see the same thing happen in Uvalde, where, you know, the police didn't go in,” said Mauser.

But we've also seen many cases where, especially in Nashville for example, where law enforcement went in and took care of things quickly. So, certainly, law enforcement has learned a lot from it.”

As Mauser and the other families of those killed and wounded at Columbine prepare for the 25th anniversary, he reflects on what else needs to happen to address gun violence.

“Talk. Talk to your friends and neighbors. The reality is that most Americans, the majority of Americans believe and support the right to bear arms. But also a majority believes that it's okay, and they want to see restrictions on that right, limitations. So let's talk about that, which ones are reasonable,” said Mauser.

“There's no one thing. There's no one law you can pass that's going to get us out of this mess that we have. I mean, we have 400 million firearms in this country. That's going to continue to present a problem and you're not going to be confiscating 400 million firearms. So let's talk about what we can do to make us safer.”

Copyright 2024 Rocky Mountain Community Radio.

That story was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Maeve Conran has been working in public and community radio in Colorado for more than 15 years. She served as the news director at KGNU in Boulder/Denver until 2020 and has since been working as the Program Director at Free Speech TV based in Denver, as well as host/producer of the Radio Bookclub podcast and radio show which is a collaboration with the Boulder Bookstore.