Twenty years ago, Tom Mauser was sitting in a congressional gallery, two seats down from the first lady, and watching President Bill Clinton describe his son, Daniel, as “an amazing kid, a straight-A student, a good skier.” Daniel had, in the president’s words, been “gunned down at Columbine” the year before.
On Tuesday night, Tom Mauser will return to Congress for another State of the Union address as the guest of Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat who is 35 years old. It’s the same age Daniel Mauser would be if he were alive today.
“Here we are 20 years later, and we are basically in the same situation,” Mauser said Tuesday. “We can’t get something as basic as a universal background check bill passed. In Colorado, the year after Columbine, we closed the gun-show loophole because it was something that played a role in the Columbine shooting.”
“It seems to me that I can be the sort of messenger that says, ‘Remember Columbine? Remember the lessons that we learned from this? And yet, we can’t get something as basic as a universal background check bill even heard in the Senate?’ We have gotten nowhere,” Mauser added.
Neguse is frustrated that HR 8, requiring background checks for all gun sales, has stalled in the Senate after passing the House. He called the Senate a “legislative graveyard” and its refusal to hold hearings on HR 8 “a perversion of our democracy.” Mauser’s presence, he says, will hopefully remind the president that millions of Americans are awaiting action on gun prevention measures.
Presidents and members of Congress are allowed to bring guests to the State of the Union address, granting them an opportunity to honor a constituent or make a political point. Below are some other guests invited by Coloradans on Tuesday.
Kristen Christy, suicide prevention advocate
Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, is bringing Colorado Springs resident Kristen Christy to Tuesday night’s speech.
Christy was named the 2018 Air Force Spouse of the Year for her advocacy work on suicide prevention following the death of her first husband. Gardner has led efforts to create a three-digit suicide prevention hotline.
“We are at war,” Christy said in a video message Tuesday. “We are at war against suicide. We are at war against depression and anxiety, and there is no room for strangers on this battlefield.”
Sue Way, retired nurse
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow invited fellow Aurora resident Sue Way, a retired nurse and diabetic who saw the cost of her insulin increase by more than 500% last year.
“The stress, the financial burden, and the uncertainty resulted in me having to ration my medication, only creating more health issues,” Way said in a statement Monday. “I believe we need to hold Big Pharma and the insurance companies accountable and I’m honored to join Congressman Crow.”
Kim Parfitt, retired teacher
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, also chose a guest to highlight flaws in the health care system: Kim Parfitt, a retired public school teacher from Lakewood.
Parfitt received a $5,000 hospital bill after undergoing basic care for a virus last October, according to Perlmutter’s office.
Jay Seaton, newspaper publisher
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat, invited Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, to show his support for journalism. Trump is an outspoken critic of the press.
Jeanie Lamborn, congressman’s wife
Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, is taking his wife, Jeanie, as his guest, according to a spokesperson for the congressman.
Eric O’Keefe, a Wisconsin activist
Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican and chair of the Colorado Republican Party, will be accompanied by Eric O’Keefe, who has worked on conservative causes for several decades. He attracted Buck’s attention for opposing the methods of an investigation into former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s ties to political groups.
“Eric O’Keefe was instrumental in shutting down Wisconsin’s infamous ‘John Doe’ investigations in which courts concluded the FBI’s coordination to illegally hack into thousands of private emails of conservatives was politically motivated,” Buck said. “I’m honored to have Eric join me at the State of the Union this year and shed light on this important issue.”
Content originally published by the Denver Post on February 4, 2020.