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A Columbine parent reflects on the decade since Sandy Hook school shooting

Tom Mauser, the father of Columbine High School shooting victim, Daniel Mauser bows as people gather to lay out approximately 7,000 pairs of shoes outside the United States Capitol on Tuesday March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. The display entitled, "Monument for our Kids" was to symbolize the number of children who have been victims of gun violence since the December 14, 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, CT.
The Washington Post
Tom Mauser, the father of Columbine High School shooting victim Daniel Mauser, bows as people gather to lay out approximately 7,000 pairs of shoes outside the U.S. Capitol on March 13, 2018, in Washington. The display, titled "Monument for our Kids," was to symbolize the number of children who have been victims of gun violence since the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Ten years ago, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In the decade since, the U.S. has slowly passed more federal gun control measures. But it’s also seen many mass shootings at schools, including Parkland, Florida, and Uvalde, Texas.

Tom Mauser, who lost his son Daniel during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, said he often gets asked if he’s surprised that America continues to suffer through mass shooting after mass shooting.

“My answer is no,” Mauser said. “Why? Because it’s happening out there. ItÆs happening all around the schools. Why should it be any surprise that it happens inside the schools?

“It’s a reflection of what’s happening to our society.”

The U.S., a nation that one study found has more guns than it has people, has struggled for years to pass significant federal gun legislation. But some lawmakers and gun control advocates saw a glimmer of hope this year with the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

That legislation, which President Biden signed into law in June, enhances background checks, financially supports red flag laws and aims to crack down on gun trafficking. It also invests in mental health services and school safety.

Mauser said that law was a positive step. But he said it took decades for the federal government to take any significant action on guns.

He said he’s inspired as more and more young people affected by mass shootings speaking out about gun violence and the damage it does to communities.

“My generation – the generation behind me – really kind of failed to do anything significant about this,” he said. “But the young generation can really have an impact on it.”

And as the younger generation works for gun reform, Mauser said he’ll continue his advocacy – wearing his son’s shoes as he does it.

“When we were clearing out some of Daniel’s effects, I found out he had the same shoe size as me,” Mauser said. “It was very symbolic that I would wear his shoes and do what I think he would want me to do.

“I only do it when I’m doing public speaking,” Mauser said. “Because I want the shoes to last for a long time – be able to pass them on to my children and grandchildren. I think it’s really important to do things in honor of your child, if it can provide some direction and provide some additional purpose in your life.”

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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