By Christianna Silva
On Wednesday, April 17, 2019, just three days before the 20-year mark of the Columbine shooting, 19 school districts in Colorado were closed in response to threats made against the Columbine community. Nevertheless, that community is standing strong together, and using the moment to reflect on the attack that pushed gun violence at school into our national consciousness.
“I never imagined that twenty years after my father was shot and killed at Columbine High School, I would be locked in my office with police stationed outside because there's a potential school shooter on the loose in our community,” Coni Sanders, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose father, Dave Sanders, was the teacher shot and killed at Columbine High School said in a statement. “This should be our time to reflect and remember the lives that were taken from us.”
On April 20, 1999, two Columbine high school students killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. At the time, it was the worst high school shooting the U.S. had ever seen.
It prompted a national debate on gun control and school safety. Yet nearly no action was taken. Since that day, over 187,000 students in 193 schools have experienced a school shooting, according to a Washington Post report from March 25, 2018, including the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and the 17 people fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The shooting, and the ensuing coverage and information about it, may have led certain people to develop a fixation with the attack, CNN reported. The 18-year-old who prompted the district lockdown on Wednesday was ostensibly one of those people; the FBI said at a press conference that the 18-year-old “made threats to commit an act of violence in the Denver metropolitan area.” A two-day manhunt followed, before she was found dead on Wednesday, law enforcement said. Her father told the Daily Beast that his daughter was interested in Columbine but he did not consider that to be anything "that stood out as dangerous.”
According to Buzzfeed News, the 18-year-old exhibited “unusual activity” that caused Miami FBI officials “great concern” in the days leading up to the ordeal. This is a story we’ve heard from other past school shootings: There were signs, occasionally causing the FBI and people around the shooter to become concerned about their actions without actually taking any steps to stop them.
Just last week, Colorado became the 15th state to allow family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to suspend a person’s access to guns if they believe that person poses a serious risk to themselves or others, according to Everytown For Gun Safety. But nationally, little has been done since the 1999 shooting to limit access to guns, according to NPR.
“For two decades, Columbine families have been part of the club no one wants to join – the millions of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence,” Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement. “We stand with Columbine survivors every day, and we commit to honoring them – and every gun violence survivor – by continuing to demand stronger gun laws here in Colorado and across America.”
“I will never accept this as normal,” Sanders added. “I will continue to help make a difference so that others don’t experience the same pain from gun violence that far too many of us have experienced.”