By Gail Erisman Valeta with Tom Mauser
On April 20, 1999, Tom and Linda Mauser joined a club that no one wanted to join: the parents of a child victimized by gun violence. Their son, Daniel Mauser, was a victim of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo.
The journey is one that no one should have to bear. And the journey is not over. At the 20th Anniversary of Columbine, 14 news outlets came to Littleton to interview families of the victims willing to participate. Here is one early article coming out of those interviews, with more to be printed and broadcast on the anniversary: “Columbine Families Gather to Tell Stories Nearly 20 Years After,” published by the Colorado Sentinel on March 23 and online at www.sentinelcolorado.com/0trending/columbine-families-gather-to-tell-stories-nearly-20-years-after/ .
Tom’s advocacy for sensible gun laws was driven by a special question from his son two weeks before the tragedy. Based on something he heard in a conversation, Daniel asked his dad if he was aware there were loopholes in the Brady Bill, a law that requires passing a background check before buying a gun. Two weeks later, Daniel was killed with a gun purchased through one of those loopholes--the gun show loophole.
Tom took a one-year leave of absence from his job to lobby the state legislature to pass stronger gun laws. When they failed to do so, he led the effort to offer Colorado voters a ballot initiative to close that gun show loophole. Colorado voters passed that initiative in 2000 by a vote of 70 percent to 30 percent.
Tom has continued working to pass sensible gun laws and educate others about sensible solutions. He has testified numerous times at hearings at the State Capitol, and speaks at rallies and churches. That included accepting an invitation to speak at Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren, where he later became a member.
Are there concerned people of faith in your congregation or community who want to promote a different response to gun violence than just “thoughts and prayers?” Presentations from speakers’ bureaus or from the Internet can be offered. There are gun violence prevention organizations in many states you could join, as listed at https://ceasefireusa.org/affiliates .
While many churches are not willing to take on this issue (Tom was even uninvited from a presentation when the pastor experienced “push back” from opponents), we should all be able to agree something must be done and offer “another way of living” that has passed on peacemaking for over 300 years.
-- Gail Erisman Valeta is pastoring Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, Colo., where Tom Mauser is a member.