Boulder shooting: Colorado has high rate of mass killings, analysis shows

Tom Sullivan last week took to the lectern on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives and noted that it was the 452nd Friday since his son, Alex, was murdered at the Aurora movie theater shooting. On Monday when he learned of the Boulder King Soopers shooting, he thought of those whose own tallies would now begin.

“There are going to be people who are counting down their Mondays, because they’ve been through this as well,” said Sullivan, a state representative from Aurora.

Colorado has a disproportionate share of survivors of gun violence and of people like Sullivan, whose loved ones were killed. A 2019 analysis by The Denver Post found Colorado had more mass shootings per capita than all but four states. The Census-designated Denver metropolitan statistical area had more school shootings per capita since 1999 than any of the country’s 24 other largest metro areas.

“What we’re looking at now,” said Frank DeAngelis, the principal at Columbine High during the 1999 massacre, “is an issue for society, happening in schools, in Colorado in movie theaters, in churches around the country, airports. We’re a country, a world, of violence.”

He worries about people growing numb, about the reflex Americans have developed to ask, upon hearing of another mass shooting, “How many this time?”

And DeAngelis worries about the collective trauma of a citizenry exposed so repeatedly to tragedy at places like the meat section of a grocery store or the screening of a Batman movie, where Alex Sullivan was killed.

“It’s somewhere that my wife goes to after school, and her students shop there for lunch break. It’s just a very normal setting,” state Sen. Steve Fenberg said of the King Soopers. The store is in his district, and a commercial anchor in south Boulder’s main community gathering spot.

Fenberg tweeted Monday, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have thoughts or prayers to offer; mostly anger.”

The routine of it all — including the thoughts and prayers — depresses Sullivan, who with exhaustion in his voice said of this latest shooting, “They’re gonna have a moment of silence or something.”

John Castillo, who lost his son, Kendrick, in the 2019 STEM School shooting, said “I just think that it’s horrific that here we are, once again. My heart prays and bleeds for these families. I know their pain.”

Castillo said it helps him to speak with others who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence.

Now on the board of the Colorado Healing Fund, DeAngelis said he and his colleagues are gearing up to try to help those harmed by Monday’s shooting.

“Different events, but the feelings are the same,” DeAngelis said. “We’ve seen this happen in Colorado way too many ways.”

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