DENVER — Gun-rights advocates are planning a rally at the same park where a group will read the names of gun violence victims on the anniversary of the Colorado theater shootings, prompting a state lawmaker to call the move "a slap in the face."
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners scheduled a rally for Friday to coincide with a remembrance ceremony planned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns at Cherry Creek State Park in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
Both start at noon. State Parks spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said the groups were issued permits for locations that are within sight of each other, but she didn't know the distance. She said park rangers and law officers would be present to keep the peace.
"I think it's a slap in the face of the people who are suffering the loss of a loved one," said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora. Fields' district includes the theater where 12 people were killed and 70 injured one year ago Saturday, and she plans to participate in the remembrance ceremony.
Fields' son was shot and killed in 2005 to keep him from testifying in a murder trial.
Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, denied his group was being insensitive and said his members would be respectful.
He accused Mayors Against Illegal Guns and its founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of politicizing the Aurora massacre to promote gun control.
"Mayor Bloomberg is using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone," Brown said.
Bloomberg's organization respects the gun group's constitutional rights to protest and to own firearms, spokesman Kelly Steele said.
"But this is a memorial for Americans murdered with guns, not a pep rally," Steele said. "Their rights aren't in question, but their judgment certainly is."
Brown said other memorials to the Aurora victims have been "wholly appropriate" and his group didn't stage simultaneous rallies.
"But when Mayors Against (Illegal) Guns had decided to dive in and make this a political issue, which they have since the beginning, we decided to dive in," he said.
Brown declined to say whether his group's rally would include speakers but added, "I have no intention to get in a shouting match."
On its website, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners calls itself "Colorado's only no-compromise gun rights organization." Brown declined to say how many members it has.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns said its ceremony will start with a news conference, after which participants will begin reading the names of about 2,500 people who have been killed by gunfire since Dec. 14, when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The names will be read until 12:38 a.m. on Saturday, the moment that the shootings began in the Aurora theater a year earlier.
Scheduled participants include a wounded survivor of the Aurora shootings, parents whose adult children were killed in the theater and a woman whose sister was killed in Newtown.