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On Columbine school shooting anniversary, focus on gun 'loophole'

Three of the guns used in the Columbine school shooting 11 years ago came from a gun show where checking the buyer’s background wasn’t required. Activists want the law changed.

By Staff writer / April 20, 2010

Michelle, who declined to give her last name, of Denver reads the inscriptions on plaques at the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colo., on Monday. April 20 is the 11th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, in which two teen gunmen killed a teacher and 12 students before killing themselves.

Ed Andrieski/AP

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When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold embarked on their shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, three of the four guns they used were purchased at a gun show by a friend who wasn’t subjected to a background check.

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Now, on the 11th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting where Harris and Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher and injured 23 others before shooting themselves, gun-control activists are focusing on the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows people to purchase guns from private sellers without the normal paperwork and background checks.

“This is such a simple fix for an important transfer point for crime guns,” says Josh Horowitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Gun-rights advocates counter that the law is would do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and would add yet more red tape for many law-abiding citizens trying to purchase guns.

On Monday, Mr. Horowitz’s organization paid for a full-page ad in the Denver Post in which Daniel Mauser, the father of a slain Columbine student, urged Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D) to support a federal bill that would expand criminal background checks at gun shows. (A Colorado bill requiring background checks for all sellers at gun shows in the state was passed in 2000.)

Mayors Against Illegal Guns – a national coalition started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino – used the Columbine anniversary Tuesday to announce a new TV ad campaign targeting the loophole, appealing in particular to key senators in five states.

“Eleven years after Columbine – it’s time,” says the ad, which the group is airing in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Virginia as well as some national stations.

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