We’ve had a few occasions to mention the name Tom Sullivan in recent years, long before he announced his candidacy for the Colorado Senate a few weeks ago. Sullivan is the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting that left 12 people dead and many dozens more wounded. Photos of an anguished Tom Sullivan desperately seeking information about his son in the hours after the shooting are seared into the memory of everyone who was following the news that day, whether he knew his name or (more likely) not.
In 2013, Sullivan joined with survivors and family from the Aurora shooting, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred just months after Aurora, and other incidents of gun violence to testify in support of the gun safety bills passed that year: requiring background checks for most transfers of firearms, limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and strengthening protections for domestic violence victims. Sullivan earned a reputation as one of the most dedicated witnesses on either side of these debates, with his clear ringing voice and harrowing story forcing even the most jaded pro-gun Republican to at least acknowledge his loss.
For awhile, anyway.
Unfortunately, Sullivan has increasingly endured what we can only describe as totally inappropriate disrespect from a variety Republican lawmakers. We took note of a incident in May of 2013 in which Sen. Bill Cadman flew into an insolent rage at Sullivan during a Denver Post panel on the legislative session. And during this week’s hearing in the Colorado State Affairs Committee, Sullivan was dissed again:
This photo was taken at the exact moment Sullivan was testifying late Monday night about the death of his son in the Aurora theater shooting during testimony against Senate Bill 16-113, the bill to repeal the 15-round magazine limit. These two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Justin “Sleepy Dwarf” Everett and Patrick Neville, are co-sponsors of the bill. Sources tell us that Rep. Everett never looked up even once during Sullivan’s entire testimony, apparently engaged in an intense…well, something or other on his smartphone. Facebook? Angry Birds? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that this is unacceptable behavior for a lawmaker listening to witness testimony on their bill. And before you shoot back with a photo of a Democrat looking downward in a hearing, you’ll want to explain to us in detail the moment in time the photo originated.
For example, the moment a witness is testifying about the murder of his son.
As the debate over the 2013 gun laws has dragged on in the Colorado legislature, we don’t doubt that the failure of pro-gun Republicans to repeal them has provoked great frustration. The recalls didn’t scare Democrats into abandoning their principles, and the 2014 “GOP wave” election’s failure to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper or the Democratic House proved only that the 2013 gun laws were not going anywhere.
But folks, this infantile disrespect for Tom Sullivan is not the way to express their frustration. We don’t care how many times they’ve seen him testify. Especially as sponsors of the bill to repeal what he fought for, they owe Sullivan their attention every time.
If they won’t give it to him as a citizen, we’ll see what they do when he’s a senator.