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Aurora victims honored, gun groups stage protest

  • People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013. Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Participants listen to a speaker during a gun rights rally, held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    Participants listen to a speaker during a gun rights rally, held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria was killed in the Newtown school shooting, is comforted by Jane Dougherty, left, whose sister Mary Sherlach was also killed in the Newtown shooting, as Dougherty reads names of victims during a ceremony at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria was killed in the Newtown school shooting, is comforted by Jane Dougherty, left, whose sister Mary Sherlach was also killed in the Newtown shooting, as Dougherty reads names of victims during a ceremony at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013. Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry hold hands as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013,  in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday.  Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry hold hands as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday. Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Seth Walters, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, hands out promotional T-shirts before a gun rights rally held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    Seth Walters, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, hands out promotional T-shirts before a gun rights rally held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • A man holds a sign at a remembrance evemt for the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, Friday, July 19, 2013 at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20, is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    A man holds a sign at a remembrance evemt for the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, Friday, July 19, 2013 at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013. Saturday, July 20, is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Seth Walters, left, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, works a promotional stand before a gun rights rally was held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    Seth Walters, left, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, works a promotional stand before a gun rights rally was held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex Sullivan was killed on his 27th birthday at the Aurora theater shooting, speaks at a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex Sullivan was killed on his 27th birthday at the Aurora theater shooting, speaks at a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013. Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry share a mini-bottle of Irish whisky as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday. Tom and Alex celebrated special events with Irish whisky and a good cigar.  Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry share a mini-bottle of Irish whisky as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday. Tom and Alex celebrated special events with Irish whisky and a good cigar. Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

    People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013. Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • Participants listen to a speaker during a gun rights rally, held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
  • Carlee Soto, whose sister Victoria was killed in the Newtown school shooting, is comforted by Jane Dougherty, left, whose sister Mary Sherlach was also killed in the Newtown shooting, as Dougherty reads names of victims during a ceremony at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry hold hands as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013,  in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday.  Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • Seth Walters, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, hands out promotional T-shirts before a gun rights rally held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
  • A man holds a sign at a remembrance evemt for the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, Friday, July 19, 2013 at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20, is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • Seth Walters, left, a staffer for the gun rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, works a promotional stand before a gun rights rally was held near a pro-gun control Mayors Against Illegal Guns remembrance event honoring the victims of the Aurora theater shootings, Friday, July 19, 2013, at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo. Saturday, July 20 marks one year since the Aurora movie theater shooting rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 wounded. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
  • Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex Sullivan was killed on his 27th birthday at the Aurora theater shooting, speaks at a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the shootings. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • Tom Sullivan and his wife Terry share a mini-bottle of Irish whisky as they visit the grave site of their son Alex Sullivan on Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Alex was killed along with 11 others in the Aurora theater shooting last July on his 27th birthday. Tom and Alex celebrated special events with Irish whisky and a good cigar.  Saturday is the anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
  • People hold signs as they gather for a remembrance rally for the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 19, 2013.  Saturday, July 20 is the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed and 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Survivors of mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut gathered with dozens of supporters yesterday in a suburban Denver park to honor those killed in the massacre at an Aurora movie theater almost a year to the day after the attack.

Vigil participants read a list of names of those killed in recent gun violence across the nation and talked about the pain of losing loved ones as they called for strict federal gun control laws.

“Why wait any longer?” asked Carlee Soto, whose sister was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn. “The time for change is now.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which promotes tough gun laws and was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, helped sponsor the vigil.

The scene was somber, even as about 100 gun rights activists held a protest nearby to oppose new firearms restrictions as infringements on Second Amendment rights. Many wore orange National Rifle Association hats and T-shirts reading, “I will not comply.”

“To the families and victims of the tragedy, we offer our condolences and prayers,” said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. “To Mayor Bloomberg and the group that would politicize this, we offer our opposition.”

Brown helped organize the rally and carried a .45-caliber pistol to the park.

The shooting victims, meanwhile, called for more universal background checks and tighter restrictions on gun sales. Colorado has been the only state outside the East Coast to ratchet back gun rights in reaction to last year’s mass shootings. A recent push for new federal restrictions failed in Congress.

“I think that Coloradans get it, that something must change,” said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the theater.

Just before their rally started, one gun rights activist, Rob Blancken, tried to stand behind a lectern with a sign that read, “Tell billionaire Mayor Bloomberg to stay the hell out of Colorado.” He was told to move by a state parks ranger.

Gun rights organizers said they sympathized with the victims but didn’t see new gun control laws as a solution.

“We want the families of the victims to know that we are sorry for their loss,” said Alicia Perez, a Colorado organizer with Gun Rights Across America.

For his part, Stephen Barton, who was wounded in Aurora, said, “You shouldn’t wait until it affects you to start caring about it.”

“I never thought I would ever be affected by gun violence personally,” Barton added.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns
said participants were reading the names of about 2,500 people who
have been killed by gunfire since Dec. 14, when a gunman killed 20
first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook.

The Aurora vigil came almost a year to the day after 12 people were killed and 70 others were wounded, some paralyzed, in a July 20, 2012, attack at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

The victims’ names were being read until 12:38 a.m. today, the moment that the shootings began in the theater last year.

The theater planned no midnight showings last night. Seven police officers were in the theater lobby yesterday afternoon, and another was outside near an exit.

Remembrance events planned for today included an early morning memorial service and a host of volunteer civic works, music, arts and even meditation. Aurora officials said they wanted to promote healing.

I was one of the gun rights activists at the park. We honor those whose lives were lost, and their loved ones. This happened in our community, and it brings great sadness. Our protest today was aimed at Bloomberg, and that ridiculous bus that is driven across our great nation to disarm our law-abiding citizens. He is using tragedy to promote his own agenda. America is under attack by it's own goverment, and we must speak out.

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