Anti-gun activists and politicians who said they were staging a “vigil” at a Colorado school to honor STEM Highlands Ranch student Kendrick Castillo, 18, who died in a shooting this week, turned it into an anti-gun rally.
They’ve apologized to the students, whose grief was exploited in pursuit of a political agenda.
But a civil rights organization says that should be just the beginning.
“Wednesday’s vigil was supposed to honor the heroic sacrifice of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo and to support other students who were injured, and give students a chance to speak from their hearts,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“Instead, it turned into a backdrop for gun control grandstanding. That was both appalling and insulting, not just to those in attendance, but every Second Amendment citizen whose rights are routinely blamed after such a horrific incident.”
Castillo died, his classmates say, while rushing a gunman.
After the attack, the anti-gun Brady Campaign and others, including Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, took over the school for a vigil.
The event turned political and students got up and walked out en masse.
The Brady campaign later “expressed sorrow” for the development.
But the Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said the Brady Campaign should “apologize to all American gun owners for allowing the attempted exploitation to happen.”
The event was organized by a Brady youth group called Team Enough. But Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow, also a Democrat, showed up at the vigil and “reportedly tried to make this into a gun control campaign platform,” the committee said.
“The students and parents who attended the vigil didn’t deserve that,” said Gottlieb, “and neither do tens of millions of law-abiding gun owners whose rights are under constant attack. No honest gun owner is responsible for the STEM high school incident, and their rights should not be scapegoated by headline-hunting politicians trying to capitalize on tragedy.
“The Brady Campaign was well aware that an anti-gun politician would turn such a somber event into a gun control rally,” he added. “Instead, students and their parents were rightly offended and they responded appropriately by walking out.
“The Brady Campaign and the politicians who tried to exploit this tragedy should be ashamed,” he concluded. “Every one of them owes the community, and the country, an apology.”
Colorado Public Radio reported the event had been billed as a “candlelight vigil.”
“The event later turned tumultuous as students rebelled against a program that they believed gave too much time to politics and not enough to the students of STEM School Highlands Ranch who wanted to share their thoughts and to remember Kendrick Castillo, their 18-year-old classmate who was killed in the attack,” the report said.
One student accused the politicians of “talking about Kendrick like he was a prop.”
“We are pretty much really mad because they turned us into politics about gun control when we came here to respect our brother Kendrick,” student Gavin told CPR. “We are people, not a statement.”
An 18-year-old suspect who had expressed hatred for Christians and President Trump, and an unidentified 16-year-old juvenile, a girl who reportedly is “transitioning” from female to male, were in custody for the shooting, which also injured eight.