Two Men Touched By Mass Shootings, Opposite Sides Of Red Flag Debate

For all the talk of mass shootings as if they’re some kind of epidemic, there aren’t that many people who have been impacted by them in any kind of a semi-direct manner. I, unfortunately, am one of those. Plus, while it’s rare, I’m far from unique by any stretch of the imagination.

In Colorado, two men standing on opposite sides of the debate on red flag laws are also part of that club.

From a distance, Democrat Tom Sullivan and Republican Patrick Neville appear to share many similarities. Both men are fathers who now serve as members of the Colorado House of Representatives. Mass shootings have deeply affected them both on a personal level.

But those instances of gun violence impacted the men—and their views on gun control—in vastly different ways. Now Colorado’s debate on its Red Flag law has pitted the two against each other.

Sullivan’s dedication to the Red Flag law—and for holding the public office that helped him pass it—was born out of tragedy. His son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.

Following his son’s death, Sullivan became an advocate for stronger gun legislation in Colorado. He told Pelley he realized writing op-eds and speaking at press conferences would only get him so far.

“It became very clear to me that, if I really want to change something, I’ve actually got to get inside the building where the laws are being made,” he said.

Neville’s experience with another Colorado mass shooting also affected him. He was a student at Columbine High School during the 1999 shooting, which left 13 students dead, including his close friend. Neville told Pelley the shooting influenced his opinions of gun ownership and public safety.

“The first time that I really formed a strong opinion on it was after I was in college,” he said. “So if there was one place that I really didn’t feel safe and that I really did feel vulnerable, it was definitely on the school campuses, sitting in those large classrooms. And not being able to protect myself really concerned me.”

So here we have two different sides of the coin, both men impacted by mass shootings in various ways and standing on opposite sides of the issue.

Obviously, I have more sympathy for Neville’s position because it’s far more similar to mine. Plus, he actually survived a mass shooting as opposed to Sullivan or even myself.

Yet I do find it interesting that I’ve heard of Sullivan before, but not Neville. I’ve heard of David Hogg, Delany Tarr, Emma Gonzalez, and Cameron Kasky, but not Patrick Neville. Not before now, anyway. Why is that?

Regardless, I don’t have a whole lot to add to this. We’ve written extensively on red flag laws and why they’re not just an infringement on people’s rights but utterly and completely unnecessary. There’s plenty of digital ink that’s been spilled over this one and will be spilled in the future, I’m sure.

What I also find interesting here, though, is why Neville and Sullivan’s experiences are somehow more important when it comes to red flag laws. Fascinating, don’t you think?

The real take away here, though, is that two men with similar ties to mass shootings are on opposite ends of the discussion. It’s almost like such events don’t necessarily make you turn one way or another when it comes to gun control.