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Mauser speaks out on gun attitudes and myths

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By Vicky Gits

Thirteen years after the Columbine High shootings, Tom Mauser continues to be baffled by the proliferation of guns and gun violence in the United States.

The U.S. by far has the most gun violence among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, Mauser said.

“We have the weakest gun laws and the highest gun-death rate. We are unique in allowing military assault weapons, as well as open and concealed carry. Other nations think we are crazy,” Mauser said.

The father of 15-year-old Daniel Mauser, a gentle soul who was killed in the Columbine High massacre in 1999, Mauser spoke to about 30 people Oct. 17 at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton on “How Do We Respond Non-Violently to Gun Violence.”

A member of Colorado Ceasefire, Mauser was also there to sell and sign copies of his new book, “In Daniel’s Shoes,” an autobiographical account of his journey in the aftermath of Columbine.

Even in the wake of the Aurora theater killings in July, there is not that much being done to change the gun laws in America, Mauser said.

An audience member brought up the issue of assault weapons in the hands of the public in the televised town hall debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on Oct. 16.

“It was great to hear Nita Gonzales talk about assault weapons. Obama said we should reinstitute a ban, but there was no discussion afterward. He made his statement, but said, 'Let’s support the Second Amendment.' Then he went off on education or something,” Mauser said.

“After the Aurora shootings, we heard a lot of people say if the audience had been armed, it wouldn’t have happened. … 'What if those (Columbine) teachers and the janitors had guns?' … That’s not the real world. The world is full of a lot of situations. If five people stand up and start shooting, how many innocent lives do you lose? The police took out a man at the Empire State Building, and they injured eight others in the process."

The issue of gun control sparks such fierce opposition that people are afraid to discuss it. “I feel I have to speak out because there are too many others who are afraid to,” Mauser said. Part of the price of being a public figure on gun matters is being subjected to “nasty” e-mails, letters and phone calls, Mauser warned.

Mauser has been fighting for stricter gun laws ever since the Columbine tragedy took place. He protested the NRA holding its convention in Denver 12 days after the shootings.

Mauser later became a spokesperson for Colorado Ceasefire and Amendment 22, the 2000 measure that closed the gun-show loophole.  (The loophole allowed people to purchase guns from private dealers at gun shows without a background check.)

Mauser maintains he is not against guns. 

“I have no problem with self-defense or hunting. But how often is a gun used for self-defense turned into a gun that someone uses to kill someone? I have lived 60 years without a gun, and I’m still here. Studies have shown that having a gun in the home is 25 times more likely to kill someone you love. There’s a difference between the right to have it and the wisdom to have it,” Mauser said.

Mauser spent some time examining the common arguments that gun advocates use to justify gun ownership, such as: “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns”; “Guns don’t kill people. People who have guns kill people”; and “Criminals don’t obey gun laws.”

“Who is talking about outlawing guns?” Mauser asked.

Americans accept the idea of licensing people to drive cars and they continue to have and enforce laws that are ignored.

“Why do we have laws against kids getting alcohol? We pass laws even if they are ignored. (Gun buyers) do have to obey the gun-show loophole law,” Mauser said.

Mauser puts some of the blame for the situation on the National Rifle Association, which is one of the strongest lobbies in Washington, he said. “Their members are devoted, and a good chunk of their money comes from the industry. What other nonprofit has buyers behind it in this way? Do we have a car-owners association behind us?”

In the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, Mauser would like to see a ban on assault weapons presented to the public in a popular vote, possibly as a citizen initiative. 

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. Follow her at Twitter.com/newsbyvicky.