News Tip: Columbine Turns 25 — ‘A Turning Point In Modern Gun Politics,’ Expert Says

News Tip -- Columbine Turns 25: ‘A Turning Point In Modern Gun Politics,’ Expert Says

Summary: The 25th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre is Saturday, April 20. Comments from the following gun policy experts at Duke University are available to use in your coverage.

Kristin Goss
“The massacre at Columbine High School 25 years ago established what has become the standard line about mass shootings in America: innocent kids get shot, nothing changes. It’s a narrative of despair, and it’s not true,” says Kristin Goss, a professor of public policy and political science at Duke University. “To be sure, Congress didn’t do anything after Columbine, but the tragedy nevertheless was a turning point in modern gun politics.”

“For one, things did change in Colorado. Immediately after the shooting, residents protested the NRA’s annual meeting in Denver and approved, by a 70% majority, a referendum strengthening background checks at gun shows. Included in that 70% was my conservative, white, gun-rights-loving father. ‘Something has to be done,’ he told me at the time. The following year, fueled in large part by Columbine, hundreds of thousands of middle-class moms flooded Washington and scores of cities across America in what remains to this day the largest mass protest for stricter gun laws in America.”

“Those early activists – including parents, teachers and students – modeled forms of victim/survivor activism that others would follow after subsequent mass shootings. Today’s movement for gun reform is far larger and more organizationally diverse, much better funded, and more strategic than it was 25 years ago. The Columbine activists, who made change in their time but were forgotten in the long post-9/11 decade, helped equalize who gets heard in the American gun debate. They also validated the idea that progress doesn’t need to come from Congress.”

“Right after the Columbine shooting, which occurred only a few miles from my own high school, I spent several years researching the daunting challenges that had faced gun policy reformers throughout the 20th century. The resulting book was subtitled, ‘The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America.’ Today, thanks in part to the strategies pursued by the Columbine activists, the movement is no longer missing.”

Kristin Goss, an professor of public policy and political science, researches the evolution of gun-related advocacy. Goss, also director of the Duke in DC program, has published three books about gun policy, including, “The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know” (co-authored with fellow Duke professor Philip Cook).

For additional comment, contact Kristin Goss at:

Philip Cook
“One thing that has changed is the availability of AR-15-style rifles with large capacity magazines,” says Philip Cook, professor emeritus of public policy at Duke University. “The vast increase in availability of such weapons was facilitated by the sunset of the federal ban on assault weapons in 2004, followed by the congressional act that immunized the firearms industry from lawsuits in 2005 and the Supreme Court’s Heller decision in 2008. The surge in sales of such weapons parallels their increasing use in mass shootings nationwide.”

“Another development since Columbine is the effort to protect schools against both students and outsiders with guns, as well as preparing the students and staff to respond to an active-shooting event. The current cutting edge of that effort has been efforts to arm teachers, but there are various other controversial tactics and programs: mandatory suspension for students who bring guns to school, hiring and deploying armed school resource officers, screening entrants for weapons and drilling students in how to hide from an active shooter.”

Philip Cook, a professor emeritus of public policy, economics and sociology, has spent more than 40 years researching the costs and consequences of the widespread availability of guns. He is co-author of “The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know.” Cook has consulted for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Treasury.

For additional comment, contact Philip Cook at:

Media Contact:
Steve Hartsoe

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