Memorial license plates to be available soon

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New license plates, memorializing the victims of the Columbine High School massacre and all school-aged victims of violent crime in Colorado, will be available soon.

Tuesday, Columbine survivors and their parents joined with Rep. Don Lee, R-Littleton, to announce that by the end of the month these specialty plates will be available for purchase by vehicle owners.

The new plates, which feature a Columbine on a background of white mountains, blue sky and the words "Respect Life," will cost $35, the same as other specialty plates. County clerks will be asked to distribute donation information so that motorists may also contribute to the Columbine Injured Victims Fund, which provides medical and educational assistance to the 23 physically injured student victims of the Columbine massacre. Additional funds raised will go toward medical and educational needs of juvenile victims of violent crime in Colorado.

Lee, the legislator for the Columbine area, carried a bill last year in the Colorado legislature that would have provided state funds to offset the cost of the plates. The bill died in committee, partly because some believed the words "respect life" would be offensive to certain groups.

The frustrated Columbine parents who requested the specialty plates, Dale Todd and Mark Schnurr, sought other ways to get their request approved. Their children, Evan Todd and Valeen Schnurr, were both injured in the Columbine library.

No state funds will be available for the plates, but legislative approval is not required for a specialty plate to be created. Motor Vehicle rules require a minimum number of applicants.

"I have no doubt that plenty will be requested," Schnurr said. "It has taken two years of work, but it has paid off."

Lee says that the phrase "respect life" means just what it says, and that it wasn't intended as part of theabortion debate.

"Everyone should acknowledge the rights of others and have a deep respect for life, but over the years we've stopped modeling that. It's this message that two sick students never learned, and our whole society is poorer for it. Opponents of the words 'Respect Life' people who have grown cynical over years of fighting for choice have let politics get in the way of the message."

Todd also supports the "Respect Life" message.

"Have our children failed us because of what comes out of them, or have we, the custodians of their lifestreams, failed our children because of what we put into them? These are the soul-searching questions I hope the Columbine license plates produce," he said.

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