Despite the series of mass shootings in the U.S. this year, both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been reluctant to even address the subject of gun control this election cycle.
But in the days leading up to Wednesday's presidential debate, the first of three before the election, at the University of Denver, only 15 miles away from the site of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting where 12 people were killed in July, a survivor of the massacre is urging the presidential candidates to discuss their strategies to combat gun violence.
In an advertisement sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-founded and funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 22-year-old Stephen Barton makes a direct appeal to voters to “demand a plan” from both Obama and Romney.
“This past summer in a movie theater in Colorado, I was shot, shot in the face and neck,” Barton says in the ad, while sitting in a movie theater. “But I was lucky. In the next four years, 48,000 Americans won’t be so lucky, because they’ll be murdered with guns in the next president’s term. Enough to fill over 200 theaters. So when you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself: Who has a plan to stop gun violence?”
Barton, a recent college graduate, was on a cross-country bike trip when he stopped at the Aurora movie theater to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Immediately after the Aurora shootings, Obama appeared to call for stricter gun control restrictions for assault weapons and background checks, which he called “common sense” preventive measures. However, shortly afterward White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama was speaking of actions “short of legislation.”
Romney is adamantly against further gun restrictions. In fact, after the Aurora shootings he said additional gun laws would not have prevented the shootings, despite the fact that the mentally unstable shooter was able to pass a background check.
Since the Aurora shooting, six people were shot to death in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, three were killed in a shooting at Texas A&M University, one was killed outside the Empire State Building in New York City, and last week a gunman in Minneapolis, Mo., killed five people and injured three others in what a local police chief described as a “hellish scene.”
Still, neither candidate has called for additional gun control restrictions, or even acknowledged there is a problem with the nation’s gun laws.