Empty shoes tribute

WASHINGTON – Tom Mauser came to the US Capitol on Tuesday dressed in gray Vans sneakers, the same ones his 15-year-old son Daniel wore when he was killed by two gunmen at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 along with a dozen other people.

Mr Mauser was one of a handful of gun control activists and volunteers who braved a frigid March morning to lay out about 7000 pairs of shoes on the US Capitol lawn as a makeshift memorial to American children killed by gun violence.

Their aim, like the thousands of students across the country who plan to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes on Wednesday morning, was to put more pressure on state and federal lawmakers to tighten rules on gun ownership.

“There’s nobody in those shoes, it’s like the emptiness in our hearts from gun violence,” said Mr Mauser, 66, of Littleton, Colorado.

The memorial, organised by Avaaz, a US-based civic organisation, and the National School Walkout, organised by the activists behind the Women’s March in Washington, are part of a grass-roots movement that grew out of the killing of 17 students and staff members at a Florida high school a month ago.

“I think we’re in the middle of a cultural change in the United States. The majority of Americans want a change in gun laws, and a majority of gun owners want change,” said Emma Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of Avaaz.

Many of the proposals favoured by gun control advocates, including a ban on assault-style weapons and the closing of loopholes on requiring background checks before gun purchases, are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association and its supporters.

The shoes, arranged side by side in a trapezoid shape outside the Capitol, represent every person younger than 18 who has been killed by a firearm since the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

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