Jul 20, 2022 - News

A father reflects on 10 years of mourning

A man in a blue shirt and blue baseball cap holds a photo of his son.
State Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial poses for a portrait in Denver while holding a photo of his son, Alex. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Every day, State Rep. Tom Sullivan lives with the sorrow of losing his son, Alex, in the 2012 Aurora movie theater mass shooting.

  • He notes that anniversaries are usually more noteworthy to those without a firsthand connection to the event.

Driving the news: It's been 10 years since a gunman killed Alex Sullivan and 11 other people during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

His father said there are likely more families in Colorado who lost loved ones to gun violence on or around July 21, 2012, but they don't get the same public attention.

  • "I need them to know that our experience and their experience is very similar, and that I know what they're going through," Sullivan told Axios Denver.

State of play: Sullivan, a Democrat representing Centennial, has served in the legislature since 2019. He co-sponsored the bill creating the state's red flag law the same year.

  • He wore his late son's jacket when introducing the measure, and again when Gov. Jared Polis signed it into law.
  • Last week, Sullivan visited the White House to celebrate the passing of the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which incentivizes states to pass red flag laws. It's been heralded as the most significant nationwide gun legislation in years.

What they're saying: "There are people alive today because of the legislation we've passed here in Colorado," Sullivan said.

Yes, but: Sullivan said he's "constantly frustrated" with his colleagues at the Capitol, citing a "lack of courage" from the General Assembly to have conversations about gun violence, which he called a public health crisis.

  • "We need to have the conversation about gun violence that impacts our communities just like other things that we talk about, like … transportation, and education, and jobs, and taxes, and homelessness," he said.
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