The Herald Bulletin

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July 19, 2013

Aurora victims honored; gun groups stage protest

AURORA, Colo. — Survivors of mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut gathered with dozens of supporters Friday in a suburban Denver park to honor those killed in the massacre at an Aurora movie theater almost a year to the day after the attack.

Vigil participants read a list of names of those killed in recent gun violence around the nation and talked about the pain of losing loved ones as they called for strict federal gun control laws.

"Why wait any longer?" asked Carlee Soto, whose sister was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn. "The time for change is now."

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which promotes tough gun laws and was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, helped sponsor the vigil.

The scene was somber, even as about 100 gun rights activists held a protest nearby to oppose new firearms restrictions as infringements on Second Amendment rights. Many wore orange National Rifle Association hats and T-shirts reading, "I will not comply."

"To the families and victims of the tragedy, we offer our condolences and prayers," said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. "To Mayor Bloomberg and the group that would politicize this, we offer our opposition."

Brown helped organize the rally and carried a .45-caliber pistol to the park.

The shooting victims, meanwhile, called for more universal background checks and tighter restrictions on gun sales. Colorado has been the only state outside the East Coast to ratchet back gun rights in reaction to last year's mass shootings. A recent push for new federal restrictions failed in Congress.

"I think that Coloradans get it, that something must change," said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the theater.

Just before their rally started, one gun rights activist, Rob Blancken, tried to stand behind a lectern with a sign that read, "Tell billionaire Mayor Bloomberg to stay the hell out of Colorado." He was told to move by a state parks ranger.

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