Anderson "Well-Rehearsed and Manipulated"

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The Colorado Freedom

Anderson "Well-Rehearsed and Manipulated"

by Ari Armstrong, January 27, 2000

Robyn Anderson, Dylan Klebold's girlfriend who purchased three guns used in the Columbine murders, was "well-rehearsed and manipulated" in her public testimony today, according to Rocky Mountain Gun Owner's Executive Director Dudley Brown, who attended the House Judiciary hearing at which Anderson spoke.

Representative Ken Gordon offered his HB-1242 today in the committee, a bill which would expand honest-citizen background checks on gun purchases to all sales at gun shows. Debate on Gordon's bill continued until late into the night. Currently licensed dealers are required by law to conduct checks, but private sellers are not. Gordon scored a major media victory by inducing Anderson to speak and by releasing her comments in time to make the morning papers before the legislative hearing.

Gordon has been claiming for weeks that a background check might have stopped Anderson from making her purchases. On December 13, 1999, Mike Soraghan wrote for the front page of The Denver Post, "Requiring criminal background checks at gun shows is, arguably, the one piece of Gov. Bill Owens' gun-control package that could have changed the course of the Columbine High School massacres." Soraghan explicitly based this lead sentence on Gordon's comments, who was quoted in the article claiming background checks "would have made [Anderson] nervous" about buying the guns.

Gordon was also responsible for inducing Anderson to testify at the House Judiciary hearing. Soraghan wrote today in the Post:

Gordon sought out Anderson after he attended gun shows and realized a background check might have scared her out of buying the guns. "It occurred to me she might think it might be a good thing to help pass legislation to keep guns out of the hands of young people," Gordon said.

Lynn Bartels of The Rocky Mountain News added, "Gordon... arranged Anderson's appearance before the House Judiciary Committee and released a statement from her Wednesday... Gordon said he has been talking to Anderson's lawyer for some time..."

Certainly both Anderson and her lawyer have been anxious to blunt public criticism. Gordon has been working closely with the disarmament group called S.A.F.E., or "Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic," the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease. Tom Mauser, head of S.A.F.E., lost a son to the Columbine killers. Anderson still faces the possibility of civil action by the families of the victims.

Is it any wonder, then, that Anderson's comments reflected Gordon's prior speculations? The statement attributed to Anderson says, "I wish a law requiring background checks had been in effect at the time... I wish it had been more difficult. I wouldn't have helped [Harris and Klebold] buy the guns if I had faced a background check." The letter closes, "Signed Robyn Anderson." No doubt she signed her name to the statement, but who wrote it? The most likely candidate is her lawyer, in collaboration with Gordon.

Circumstances surrounding the statement cast doubt on the conclusions Soraghan draws in his front-page editorial today, in which he claims, "[Anderson's] statement is the first evidence any of the gun-control laws proposed by Gov. Bill Owens might have changed what happened at Columbine." Even granting Anderson's statement is an accurate reflection of her actions, Soraghan's speculation is spurious, as the two killers planned their crime for many months, amassed bombs, and obtained a pistol from another buyer, Mark Manes, who is now in prison for selling the gun.

Representative Shawn Mitchell asked Anderson during the hearing why she was eager to avoid a background check if she didn't suspect the guns would be used illegitimately.

Gordon claims he supports expanded honest-citizen background checks because they might have stopped Anderson from buying the guns. But then why doesn't he just opt to make it a crime to transfer a gun to a minor? Colorado statutes 18-12-108.5 and 18-12-108.7 already prohibit the transfer of a handgun to a minor. Representative Don Lee's bill 1243 would amend those laws to make the transfer of any gun to a minor a crime, absent parental consent. If Gordon merely wanted to "keep guns out of the hands of children," as he claims, he wouldn't be pushing his bill to expand background checks on all law-abiding adults, he would simply make it a crime to transfer a gun to a minor. But of course in politics the best emotional appeals often win the day, regardless of their relevance.

Soraghan made another claim in his story that is not yet well-established. Soraghan writes, "The fourth gun, a TEC-DC9 assault pistol, was sold privately at another Tanner gun show to Mark Manes, 22, who resold it to Harris and Klebold for $500." However, in an interview today, Steve Davis of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office declined to confirm that report about the source of the gun. Davis added, "A lot of things are getting made up." Of course, several things have been "made up" by the sheriff's office as well, and Davis was tight-lipped on the details, but he promised a final report in a few months to provide solid details on such matters.

But regardless of the actual circumstances surrounding Mane's gun purchase, it's clear the Columbine killers planned their crime carefully over a period of many months, despite facing a myriad of legal and practical obstacles. Even had they not obtained guns from either Anderson or Manes, the killers would likely have proceeded with their crimes.

The Colorado Freedom