ial flower often seen growing wild in the Rocky Mountains. But since April 20, 1999, the word has been a universally recognized reference to what was then the worst mass shooting at a school in American history. Thirteen people were shot to death and 21 were wounded by a pair of Columbine High School students who then killed themselves. The massacre in Littleton, Colo., was a singularly shocking event.
At the time, the bloodshed seemed as though it might create a turning point in public attitudes and government policy on firearms. President Bill Clinton proposed measures to regulate sales at gun shows, raise the minimum age for buying handguns from 18 to 21 and hold negligent parents liable if their kids commit crimes with firearms. Texas Gov. George W. Bush endorsed instant background checks at gun shows.
The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted against this safeguard just weeks later and immediately reversed course, fearing how voters would react. For years to come, the debate over guns here will be framed in light of what happened at Columbine, said Colorado Republican Gov. Bill Owens.