WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS4) – Coloradans in Congress invited several guests to President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in Washington, D.C. Colorado representatives used the invitation to draw attention to issues including gun violence and veteran suicide.
Tom Mauser, Gun Control Activist
A father of one of the Columbine High School shooting victims was in the audience. Tom Mauser attended the State of the Union as a guest of Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.
Mauser became the face of the gun control movement after his son, Daniel Mauser, died. Tuesday night was Mauser’s second appearance at the State of the Union in 20 years.
“I want people to think how shameful it is that we’re still stuck in same place,” Mauser told CBS4’s Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.
Mauser was invited to the State of the Union by President Bill Clinton in 2000. At the time, he implored congress to close a background check loophole that he said contributed to his son’s death.
“It was like he handed me a responsibility,” Mauser said. “This is my way of carrying on his legacy.”
Neguse is 35-years-old, the same age Daniel Mauser would have been today. He helped pass a bill out of the House of Representatives last year to require universal background checks, but the Senate has sat on it.
“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about many people lost to gun violence,” said Neguse.
“All we’re asking for is a vote,” Neguse said. “When you have over 90 percent of Americans supporting something as basic and common sense as this, and it can’t even get a hearing in the Senate. To me that is the tyranny of the minority.”
Kristen Christy, Advocate for Veteran Suicide Prevention
Another guest in the House chamber was Kristen Christy, a military spouse whose husband died by suicide. Christy was a guest of Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
In an interview with Shaun Boyd, Christy said her husband, Lt. Col. Don Christy, returned from Baghdad tormented by mental anguish, but did what many veterans do – he put on a brave face.
“We hear it all the time. They’re different come back different and he didn’t fully come home from his deployment in Baghdad,” Christy said.
Sen. Gardner invited Christy to the State of the Union to raise awareness about the veteran suicide rate in Colorado, which is among the highest in the nation. Gardner has introduced bills to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline, increase the number of mental health providers and improve screening and prevention efforts.
“It’s leadership from people like Kristen and so many others across Colorado who have highlighted the very big challenge we have,” said Gardner. “The stigma that Kristen talked about is something we have to eliminate. We’ve got to fight through and find ways to help.”
Gardner has also introduced several bills aimed at easing the transition from military to civilian life. He said all of his bills to help veterans have bipartisan support.
Christy’s sons were 14 and 12 when their dad died. Since then, her younger son tried to take his own life. Her older son has turned to drugs and disappeared. He is still missing.
“I’m hoping the TV will scan the gallery and show me and my son will be out there and he’ll say, ‘I need to call mom,'” Christy said.
Kim Parfitt, Retired Teacher
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, invited a retired school teacher from Lakewood to the State of the Union. Kim Parfitt received a $5,000 hospital bill after being treated for a virus in the ER.
“Kim, like many Coloradans, are understandably concerned about the high cost of health care and the lack of transparency around charges from their medical providers,” said Perlmutter. “The Affordable Care Act brought critical coverage to thousands of Coloradans and we must continue to work to improve the ACA, starting with transparency in all healthcare pricing and ensuring everyone has access to affordable, quality healthcare.”
Perlmutter introduced legislation to require all medical providers, including insurers and drug companies, to publicly disclose costs for all products, services and procedures. Perlmutter also supports legislation to provide individuals ages 50-64 the option to buy into Medicare while helping to stabilize the ACA marketplaces and reduce overall costs within the healthcare system.