San Diego Union-Tribune

April 20, 2001

Mira Mesa crusader joins effort to stiffen federal firearm laws


WASHINGTON -- When the nation's worst school shooting at Columbine High happened two years ago, Heather Dugdale felt the pain up close as a resident of Littleton, Colo.

When the Santana High shooting stunned the country last month, Dugdale was a Mira Mesa resident, and old wounds reopened. But the 26-year-old attorney, head of the San Diego chapter of the Million Mom March, already was deep into carrying out her mission: working to stop youth violence.

Dugdale's crusade grew not out of the bloodied school grounds in Colorado or California. It began in New Mexico, where her teen-age brother was fatally wounded in a road-rage shooting weeks after the Columbine massacre.

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Columbine rampage that left 15 dead, including the two gunmen, Dugdale joined representatives of gun control groups yesterday in blasting Congress for not closing loopholes in federal firearms laws.

"I'm trying to help others through tragedy and help prevent tragedy," Dugdale said. "I feel like a black cloud has been following me."

Specifically, officials of Handgun Control Inc., the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and others said they want Washington to regulate gun shows nationwide. Previous attempts have failed.

Though new gun control bills are expected to be introduced soon by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, most face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, nearly three dozen families of Columbine victims and survivors agreed to a settlement of about $2.5 million in their lawsuits against the gunmen's parents and the providers of a gun used in the massacre, an attorney said yesterday.

The families also are in settlement talks with Robyn Anderson, a friend who legally bought the other three weapons used by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The guns were purchased at a gun show four months before the deadly attack.

The gunmen's parents, Wayne and Kathy Harris and Sue and Tom Klebold, have agreed to pay about $1.6 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.