In campaign against gun violence, Columbine students aim to shock with final photos

By Keith Coffman

LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – Last month, Kaylee Tyner and other students at Columbine High School launched a campaign dubbed #MyLastShot, asking students across the country to pledge to publicize images of their deaths if they became victims of a mass shooting. 

The project asks students to download the pledge from the group’s website and affix it to a driver’s license, school identification card or cell phone to be used as a directive, similar to an organ donor’s card, if they become shooting victims.

“In the event that I die from gun violence, please publicize the photo of my death,” the pledge reads. The #MyLastShot group is asking relatives to share the grisly images of a death across social media in their campaign for gun control.

About 7,000 people have taken the pledge, she said.

The group’s website, http://www.mylastshot.org, says the public should not be shielded from the gruesome scenes of mass shootings.

“The media censors those images. But if we can’t handle the reality of what our gun violence epidemic is causing, we’ll remain stuck on a loop,” the group wrote.

A Florida teenager who authorities said was armed, dangerous and “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre became the latest victim of the Columbine tragedy on Wednesday. Sol Pais, an 18-year-old student from Surfside, Florida, was found dead about 40 miles (64 km) west of Columbine High School in Littleton, apparently from a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

“Part of me feels bad that she was mentally ill, didn’t get help, and all this ended in her death,” Tyner said on Wednesday in a text message. “But I also am frustrated as she caused such a huge disruption with her threats and her infatuation with Columbine.”

A 1955 PHOTO

Neither Kaylee Tyner, nor any of her classmates at Columbine High School were alive on April 20, 1999, when a mass shooting at their school marked a modern era of mass school shootings.

But the long shadow cast by the tragedy, when two seniors at the school shot to death a teacher and 12 fellow students before turning their guns on themselves, hovers over the community, a middle-class suburb southwest of Denver.

“Growing up in the Columbine community, it’s always been an issue,” Tyner, 17, told Reuters in an interview.

Beyond what occurred at her school, Tyner and other student activists were dismayed by a recent spree of mass shootings, including one last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people died.

But it was a 1955 photo of the open casket funeral for Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American who was lynched in Mississippi for purportedly flirting with a white woman, that inspired Tyner to take a drastic approach to combating gun violence.

“The graphic images of his death revealed the realities of racism and sparked the civil rights movement,” Tyner said. “I knew that there was something huge missing from the gun violence prevention movement.”

While active in other gun-control activities – including her support for a “red flag” law recently passed in Colorado that allows guns to be seized from a person deemed a threat – Tyner said the campaign seeks to create change at a cultural, as well as a legislative level.

The goal, Tyner said, is “to spark a conversation.” She knows the project is controversial. The group has received some negative feedback, which she expected.

“The point is to make people uncomfortable,” Tyner said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman)

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