My world was ripped apart when my dad, Coach Dave Sanders, was shot to death at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
This Nov. 6, nearly 20 years later, I will honor my dad’s life by voting for candidates who will prioritize gun safety.
My dad died a hero. When he saw the shooters attacking, he didn’t run away, he ran into the school from the parking lot to try to save his students. He ran into the cafeteria, jumping atop the lunch tables, and yelled for all the kids to get out. When the shooters reached the cafeteria, no one was there — thanks to Dad.
People who were there said that my dad, along with his best friend, ran upstairs to help more students to safety. Running toward the shooters, my dad was shot several times.
He was a coach, a father, a grandfather, a mentor, and a hero — not just when he died, but long before.
Since my Dad was shot and killed, I’ve made it my mission to fight for common-sense gun laws. Progress has been slow. After Columbine, Colorado closed the so-called background check loophole that enabled the Columbine shooters to buy their guns without a background check.
But other efforts in our state Capitol have stalled. And in our nation’s capital, Congress and the White House have turned a blind eye to the 96 Americans shot and killed every day, and hundreds more who are wounded by gun violence.
I’m tired of, and disappointed in, our elected officials, who tragedy after tragedy fail to take action to reduce gun violence.
This year, all of that can change. On Nov. 6, we have a real opportunity to use our voting power and make our leaders hear us. What happens in Colorado can set an example for the rest of the country, and up and down the ballot, some of the most important races in the state now revolve around gun safety.
In the governor’s race, Jared Polis wants stronger gun safety laws to protect Coloradans. His opponent, Treasurer Walker Stapleton, wants to repeal some of Colorado’s gun safety laws.
In my congressional district, Congressman Mike Coffman has taken more money from NRA Political Action Committees, than anyone in Colorado’s congressional delegation. But now he’s up against Jason Crow, a veteran who’s pushing for gun safety and holding Coffman accountable for his allegiance to the gun lobby.
And, what happens in critical state House and Senate campaigns will have a direct impact on Colorado’s gun laws.
Last session, the Colorado House passed a bipartisan Red Flag bill to create a way for family members and law enforcement to seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order to temporarily block a person’s access to guns when there is evidence they pose a risk to themselves or others.
Eight states passed such laws after the Parkland mass shooting; but here, the bill was blocked in the Senate where Republicans hold a single vote majority.
If we elect a new gun-sense majority in the Senate, keep our seats in the House, and elect more lawmakers like House District 37 candidate Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was shot and killed during the Aurora movie theater shooting, we can enact that legislation next year.
Coloradans are far too familiar with the horror of not just mass shootings, but daily gun violence that doesn’t make news. Join me in sending a message to our leaders on Nov. 6 by electing gun-sense candidates who put our safety first.
Coni Sanders is a Denver resident whose father, Dave Sanders, was the teacher and girls’ basketball coach killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.