There’s been a national push in recent years to erase the names of gunmen who commit mass shootings from the public sphere. But now a group of Columbine High School students are leading an effort to spread photos of their horrific acts to influence the conversation around gun control.
The #MyLastShot campaign, launched this week, asks school students to sign a pledge asking that if they are ever killed in a mass shooting, the graphic photo of their death be shared across social media.
“We hope to spark conversation around the truly horrific realities around gun violence,” said Kaylee Tyner, a 17-year-old senior at Columbine. “This project is a pretty controversial one, but that’s because it truly makes people uncomfortable with the realities of gun violence. And that’s our goal. Gun violence in this country has been very normalized and people have become very comfortable with it.”
Here’s how it works: Students can log onto the campaign’s website and either order or print out a small sticker that says “In the event that I die from gun violence please publicize the photo of my death.” The idea is that the request would be tacked onto an ID or some other personal item after the student has a conversation with his or her parents, or someone else close to them, about their intentions.
“We hope that it never gets to that point,” said Tyner, who has been active in other Colorado gun-control efforts. “We don’t want the images to ever have to be used.”
The idea isn’t necessarily for the images to be shared by the media, Tyner said, which is where the campaign has a big split from the “no notoriety” effort to halt reporters from repeating assailants’ names. Her thought is they would be circulated on social media.
The students’ campaign comes as more and more attention is being thrust upon the physiological impacts of gun violence in America.
After recent mass shootings in Texas, at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, and in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, doctors began speaking to reporters about the impacts the weapons used in those attacks had on victims’ bodies.
“As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients,” Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, wrote in The Atlantic after treating victims in the Florida shooting. The gunman used an assault-style rifle, which she said caused injuries more severe than she had ever seen.
Dr. Lillian Liao, a surgeon at the University Hospital and UT Health San Antonio in Texas, recounted to Vice News about receiving victims from the Sutherland Springs shooting last year, which left 27 dead. She showed graphic X-rays of bullets’ impact on children’s bodies.
“We call it gaping holes,” she told the show.
Colorado Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat whose son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, has been on a similar mission. He told Denver7 he has showed people crime scene photos from the massacre to help them better understand gun violence.
The students’ campaign has won backing from state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, who voiced support for their efforts in a recent speech at the Colorado Capitol.
Tyner said she worked on the project, in part, with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where last year 17 students and teachers were killed in a mass shooting. In the push by those students for more gun control last year, they came to Colorado and visited Columbine High School in Littleton.
“I’ve had some of my friends from Parkland help,” Tyner said.
The entire project — from the website to the promotional materials — was developed by students, she said. It’s been about a year in the making.
The 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that left 12 students, a teacher and the two gunmen dead, is April 20.