Victims of the Colorado theater shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured are speaking out, urging Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to address gun control during Wednesday's presidential debate in Denver.
"When you watch the presidential debates, ask yourself, who has a plan to stop gun violence?" Aurora shooting survivor Stephan Barton, 22, asks in an ad.
"Let's demand a plan," Barton adds after highlighting that 48,000 Americans will be killed by firearms during the next president's term - "enough to fill over 200 theaters."
The ad is sponsored by the bi-partisan gun control advocacy group United Against Illegal Gun Support Fund and is accompanied by a petition urging the candidates to address the issue on Wednesday.
The debate will take place at the University of Denver, a 30 minute drive from the Century 16 theater targeted for the July shooting and 25 minutes from Columbine High School, the site of the 1999 shooting in which 13 people were killed.
This year, another mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple and the arrest of a Maryland man who had hoarded hundreds of firearms and - like Aurora shooter James Holmes - likened himself to the Batman villain the Joker, have worried communities and politicians alike.
The issue was highlighted briefly in the national political rhetoric immediately after the two shootings but has become overshadowed by domestic economic concerns and new anti-American sentiment overseas.
On Monday, 13 family members of the Aurora shooting also sent a letter to Denver debate monitor Jim Lehrer, urging him to question the candidates about their gun control policies.
"It's time that the next U.S. president discuss and provide possible solutions to the growing problem of gun violence in America," the letter read.
"Mass shootings will happen again. It's not a matter of if, but when. Thirty-two Americans will be murdered today. We just don't yet know their names or the families or communities they come from. Their lives matter. We, as a nation, are better than this," it added.
It is unclear whether debate moderator Lehrer will raise the issue Wednesday, as the questions will not be made public until the time of the debate.
by RTT Staff Writer
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