Advertisement

Tragedy in Colorado

School Shootings Put NRA in the Spotlight Once Again

Guns: After deaths and amid debate over firearms, experts predict a bitter confrontation at organization's convention in Colorado next week.

April 21, 1999| From The Baltimore Sun

Even before Tuesday, Colorado was expected to take center stage later this month in the bitter, building national drama over the future of gun manufacturing and regulation. But when two young men in trench coats shot up Columbine High School, the controversy arrived in force--one week early.

The National Rifle Assn. is set to open its 128th annual convention in Denver on April 30. For the last several days, billboards with pictures of NRA President Charlton Heston have lined several major roadways in Colorado, including Interstate Highway 25, on the way from downtown to the shooting site in Littleton. And an NRA-backed bill easing restrictions on concealed weapons is expected to be debated by the Colorado House of Representatives today and to be passed by the end of the legislative session May 5.

With municipalities across the United States launching an unprecedented wave of litigation against firearms makers, the NRA convention had been touted as the most closely watched gathering of the 2.7-million member organization in recent memory. But Tuesday, in the wake of the shootings in a suburb outside of Denver, advocates on both sides of the debate were privately predicting that next week's convention could turn into the most bitter confrontation yet on the issue.

Gun control supporters--both in the Denver area and nationwide--were making plans Tuesday to descend on the Colorado Convention Center during the three-day NRA meeting. NRA officials, meanwhile, said privately they expected a record turnout at the membership meeting on the conference's second day, May 1, to show strength in the face of the inevitable post-shooting criticism.

"The fact that this has happened in Colorado is horribly ironic," said Naomi Paiss, a spokeswoman for Handgun Control Inc. in Washington, shortly after Tuesday's shootings.

"This raises the ante," added Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence.

Colorado has been the focus of national attention in gun circles for weeks. The state Legislature, pushed by a new Republican governor, has been pursuing a package of three major bills designed to ease access to guns and to reduce the abilities of cities and towns to regulate firearms. The NRA has put its prestige on the line by stationing one of its top lobbyists in Colorado for most of the spring to shepherd the bills to passage.

"For better or worse, this Legislature has been obsessed with the gun issue for the last month and a half," says Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League, which represents 263 cities and towns in the state. "All that's been on the front page of the paper is guns, guns, guns."

Already, one bill has passed: legislation that would prohibit Colorado's municipalities from suing gun manufacturers. In recent months, New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami Dade County, and Bridgeport, Conn., have filed suit against firearms makers in an effort to recover costs related to gun violence.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|