The New York Times: “The Spineless Gun Vote”


The excerpt below is from an April 19 column by Joe Nocera of The New York Times:

On April 20, 1999, Katie Lyles, a high school sophomore, was taking a math test when she heard a popping sound. “I assumed it was a prank,” she says.

It wasn’t. The fire alarm soon went off, and a teacher shouted, “This is not a drill. Go, go, go!” Katie and several classmates ran through the neighborhood, seeking shelter. All around them, they could hear the screams of sirens and the whir of helicopter blades.

Finally, a woman answered their frantic knocking. “Are you all from the high school?” she asked. When they said yes, the woman invited them in. That is where they learned that two of their fellow students at Columbine High School had gone on a murderous spree, killing 13 and wounding 21, before turning their guns on themselves.

On Wednesday, 14 years later, I met Katie Lyles in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Now 30 and married, Katie is a grade-school art teacher in Littleton, Colo., the same town where she became, in the sad vernacular of our age, “a Columbine survivor.” She was in Washington as part of a lobbying effort by the National Education Association, the big teachers’ union, to back the handful of simple, common-sense gun bills, starting with universal background checks, that the Senate would be voting on later that day.

Until the shootings in Newtown, Conn., Katie had never spoken publicly about her experience. She is still affected by what happened that day. But after Newtown, Katie realized that the school where she now teaches was as vulnerable to gun violence as Columbine had been in 1999. And she couldn’t stay silent. “I realize that my life has led me to this moment,” she says.

Read the column here.

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