Tom Sullivan, the father of Aurora theater shooting victim Alex Sullivan, confronted two Republican Colorado lawmakers at a Denver Post forum Tuesday, telling them that he was “appalled” at what he saw during gun control debates at the state capitol in recent months and that they must be proud that the GOP is now known as the “guns over people party.”
Sullivan directed his comments at House Minority Leader Rep. Mark Waller and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Bill Cadman at the end of an hour-long forum in which the Republicans recapped the legislative session.
Earlier, both men complained about what they saw as overrreach by Democrats, who passed historic gun control legislation banning high-capacity magazines and requiring universal background checks, among other new laws.
Cadman gave two examples of how he considered the background check requirement to be shortsighted. Boy Scouts, he said, couldn’t take weapons owned by other family members on days-long outings without violating the background check requirement on firearms transfers. The same is true, he said, of his in-laws who vacation in Canada and often ask Cadman to store their weapons in their absence.
Sullivan, in remarks made before he identified himself as related to one of the Aurora victims, called the examples “fictional stories.”
“You know what,” Cadman fired back testily, “when you start to accuse me of lying, I think we’re done. … And you know what, it’s not guns over people, it’s people and constitutional rights over an elite government elected and run by a very progressive special interest group that’s not even from Colorado.”
“So did you have a question or did you just want to continue to throw insults at us?” he asked.
Sullivan, who was sitting just feet away in the front row, was uncowed.
“What I will tell you, sir, is that my son was murdered in the Aurora theater by a man who had bought a 100-round drum and murdered my son,” he said.
“And I would like to ask, and say to the two of you, please try and imagine what that was like having to go around to the hospitals here in town looking for my son and then finding out that he was lying in that theater, dead from a single gunshot wound to his heart,” Sullivan continued, his voice emotional. “And then have to go back and tell his mother and his sister that he went to the movies one night and he never went home.”
While Tom Sullivan spoke, Cadman fidgeted with a notebook and appeared to be doodling or making notes. Waller sat and listened.
After a moment of silence, Denver Post representatives ended the forum.
Contacted later, Waller said he understood the emotion Sullivan displayed.
“You feel horrible that the guy lost his son. It’s terrible,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “One of the things he said there is, ‘try to imagine what that’s like.’ And I’m thinking to myself, I’ve got two kids, I’ve got a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter and I can’t imagine what that’s like. I can’t imagine the pain of that loss.”
“The only thing I could think is I’d be just as angry as he is,” Waller continued, “but there’s nothing that can be said there that’s going to lessen his pain in any way.”
Alex Sullivan went to the movies July 20 to celebrate his 27th birthday. He and 11 others were killed and 58 injured when accused gunman James Holmes opened fire.
Holmes has entered an insanity plea.
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