Stephen Barton, Aurora victim and gun control advocate, grew up ten minutes from Newtown
Since last Friday, there has been a resurgence in gun-policy discussions locally. Representative Ed Perlmutter has announced that he will introduce an assault weapons ban on day one of the new Congress. His colleague Representative Diana DeGette has been pushing for a vote on a ban of high-capacity magazines this week. And Governor John Hickenlooper, who was generally silent on gun policy after the Aurora shootings, said that the time has come to consider new legislation. This week he also unveiled a new mental-health system that he hopes could help reduce the risk of these kinds of tragedies in the future.
Edward Reed / NYC Mayor's Office, Flickr Stephen Barton with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong gun control advocate.
Barton says he wasn't naive enough to expect major change in five months, but that he still couldn't believe the devastation in Connecticut. "I was really upset that this had happened again to 26 more families and more friends and relatives," he says. "The fact that we can live in a country where these sorts of things happen with a frightening amount of regularity, it can be very depressing."
But, he adds, "The flip side of that is that people are paying attention."
Barton says he has several distant connections to those impacted by Newtown, such as friends or family members of childhood friends more closely affected by the massacre. "I'd really like to think...that twenty kids getting murdered in cold blood will move the needle on this issue," Barton says. "If that doesn't, I can't imagine what will."
Newtown is further evidence that gun violence is not just an urban problem: "There is a concentration of crime and gun crime in our cities, but it strikes everywhere," he says.
Barton will be pushing for better systems for background checks, a ban on assault rifles, stronger systems to prevent illegal trafficking of guns and more.
Citing reports that Holmes' rifle jammed during the Aurora massacre, Barton says, "I have a personal connection...because if that hadn't jammed, I don't think I'd be alive today. I think a lot of people would've been killed that were able to escape."
Sam Levin Mourners at the first Aurora vigil on July 20 after the massacre.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Newtown, Aurora and Columbine: Mass shootings, gun hysteria...and MK Ultra?"