Columbine eleven years later: Media mostly moves on

tom mauser ad to mark udall.JPG
The photo and message atop Tom Mauser's ad (click to enlarge).
Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School -- the sort of round number the media can't resist.

As such, there were a number of notable commemorations, including the release of two books on the tragedy and a special episode of Oprah that was yanked at the last minute, almost certainly due to complaints from Columbine parents and observers.

This year -- number eleven since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did their worst -- is a different story. If it weren't for a gun-control push by Tom Mauser, whose son died in the massacre, numerous local news organizations might not have made more than a token note of that terrible day in 1999.

As we previewed yesterday in the blog linked above, Mauser, a board member and spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, is at the center of full-page letters published in the Denver Post and Boulder Daily Camera urging Senator Mark Udall to support a measure closing the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows individuals who purchase weapons at such events to evade the sort of background checks required at brick-and-mortar stores.

Mauser's efforts generated an Associated Press story in which he's referred to as a "Columbine dad." At this writing, it's linked in not especially prominent fashion on the home pages of Channel 7 and Channel 9. At Channel 31, there's a link to a tiny story noting that classes at Columbine have been canceled for today, while the word "Columbine" doesn't appear on the Channel 4 home page right now.

As for the Denver Post, the paper published a modest remembrance featuring photos of the victims at the bottom of the Denver and the West cover and a larger piece in the sports section focusing on reactions by members of the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks, who were slated to match up in a playoff game eleven years ago, echoing their current series.

In addition, the Post editorializes in favor of closing the gun-show loophole, referencing Columbine and Mauser.

Some observers may criticize the press for dealing with Columbine in context rather than rolling out memorial pieces as in years gone by, arguing that the current tack flies in the face of the "Never Forgotten" slogan that arose in the wake of the violence. But eleven years down the line, this approach strikes me as appropriate.

Clearly, Columbine has not been forgotten. Rather, it's become a part of our national consciousness -- a constant influence that doesn't need to be name-checked to have an impact (although it still does, as Mauser's current campaign demonstrates).

For most of us who lived in the Denver area in 1999, memories of Columbine remain fresh and raw, as demonstrated by the reaction to the recent shooting at Deer Creek Middle School. We don't think about it only one day a year. It's always with us, and always will be.

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