Craig More than 100 teen-agers across Colorado joined in a grass-roots campaign to stop new laws that put more restrictions on guns, calling them "ill conceived feel-good laws."
A letter mailed to all state legislators and the Colorado media reads, "We do not agree with anti-gun lobby groups such as SAFE that more gun controls will make our communities safer. Rather, the gun control measures now proposed will serve mostly to take guns out of the hands of peaceable citizens, leaving good people less able to defend themselves against violent criminals."
SAFE, Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, was founded after the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., as a bipartisan anti-gun group that has received national headlines throughout its campaign. It is that publicity that prompted Hotchkiss High School student Desirae Davis, 16, to write and circulate the letter.
"The way the SAFE group wants things to happen is based more on feelings than facts," Davis said. The facts are, she said, that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two teens who shot 13 Columbine High School students before killing themselves in a shooting spree, broke 17 gun control laws.
"A couple more would not have stopped them," she said.
It is Davis' contention that lawmakers should work to enforce the laws already in place, not create new ones. She found a group of friends who believed the same way and began making phone calls. She said she would call friends, ask them if they supported the philosophy discussed in the letter and get permission for their names to be on the letter. Those friends called others and soon students from across the state were represented. Three Moffat County High School students signed the letter.
Clayton Richards, 16, believes all people should have the right to carry guns for hunting, for collection and for protection.
"How is a woman going to defend herself from a violent criminal?" he asked. "A criminal is a criminal. They're going to kill with or without a gun."
Colorado Speaker of the House Russell George, R-Rifle, agreed, saying gun laws only affect honest people.
"The burglary crowd is emboldend if honest people lose guns," he said.
Ron Cox, 17, signed the letter because it supports his theory that "guns cause murder, flies cause trash," a spin-off on the popular expression that guns don't kill people, people kill people. And it is the lowest form of life that will misuse guns, he said.
Cox believes additional laws won't prevent tragedy.
"If a criminal wants to get a gun, they're going to get a gun," he said.
This fight is one with which George hoped students wouldn't get involved.
"I have lots of ambivalent feelings about the whole gun debate because it's a whole tempest in a teapot," he said.
The argument is a political one in which neither side has hopes of winning, he said.
"This is a political, attention-getting platform and I resent it anytime people use an issue to further their political careers," George said.
He urged students to take on a campaign that would do more good and has an immediate solution.
"The whole thing is headed the wrong way. I'd rather they concentrate on other things that would really help solve our problems," George said.
"More people getting involved doesn't help anything because the issues aren't going to change, but I'm glad the kids are getting involved. If they came and knocked on my door, I'd hug them and say 'good for you.' If the SAFE group came and knocked on my door, I'd pat them on the back."
Davis doesn't know where her letter will lead. She would like to start an anti-gun control group including the students who signed her letter.
She said she has not received much feedback because of her letter, but George said it is coming. He received an e-mail from the National Rifle Association that carried Davis' telephone number and address for anyone who wants to comment on the letter.