Total Pageviews

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aurora Victim Pushes Gun Issue With New Ad


Stephen Barton was supposed to spend the fall teaching English in Russia on a Fulbright fellowship. But shortly after midnight on July 20, a gunman in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., derailed those plans.

Still recovering from the wounds he sustained when the gunman opened fire that night, killing 12 and injuring dozens more, Mr. Barton has decided to devote his energies this fall to something entirely different: Trying to get the presidential candidates to address the touchy issue of guns and gun violence.

In a television advertisement to begin airing on Monday, Mr. Barton, seated in an empty movie theater, tells viewers that despite the injuries from 25 shotgun pellets that embedded themselve s in his face and neck, he was lucky.

“In the next four years, 48,000 Americans won't be so lucky, because they'll be murdered with guns in the next president's term, enough to fill over 200 theaters,” Mr. Barton, 22, says in the advertisement. “So when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself, ‘Who has a plan to stop gun violence?'”

The advertisement will appear in Colorado and on cable stations in Washington and other cities across the country, said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 725 mayors that is sponsoring the ad as part of its “Demand a Plan” campaign.

After the shooting spree in Aurora, both presidential candidates offered their condolences to the victims and their families. President Obama traveled to Aurora to visit the injured. Mitt Romney said, “Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy.”

But any discussion of how to prevent gun violence has been noticeably absent in presidential campaigns that have focused on the economy and foreign policy issues.

Both candidates have backed gun control measures in the past, Mr. Obama as a legislator and Mr. Romney as governor of Massachusetts, where he raised the fee for gun licenses and signed a ban on assault weapons.

But at a time when national surveys show waning support among Americans for tougher gun laws and when politicians who broach the issue face swift attack by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have instead stressed their support for Second Amendment rights.

Mr. Barton, who graduated from Syracuse University in May and had stopped in Aurora for a few days while on a cross-country bicycle trip, said that before the shooting, he had followed the presidential campaign from a distance.

But what happened that night at the theater made it much more personal.

“I couldn't sit back and be just frustrated at the direction of the discourse or the lack of discourse,” he said. “I guess I just felt some responsibility.”

He deferred his Fulbright fellowship and, through contacts in Washington, signed up with the mayors' coalition, where he will spend the year working on gun control issues.

“We have this giant shooting and it's really sad that we can't even have a discussion about it,” he said. “Really, more than anything, we just want to candidates to start talking about it in a way that's beyond just condolences.”

And if the advertisement fails to convince the candidates, he added, “At least it might convince regular American citizens to think about it.”