In the weeks after the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., charities began using pictures of the 12 people who were killed, including Crystal Lake native John Larimer, to raise money.
During the months that followed, the victims’ families had a difficult time receiving the money that people thought would benefit them.
So 64 family members of victims of tragedies have called on the federal government to establish a protocol for national compassion funds in the event of large-scale tragedies, such as the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.
“It’s amazing, we have so many things in common, even though they are different events and different times,” said Scott Larimer, John Larimer’s father.
There is an online petition at WhiteHouse.gov where people can show their support.
Representatives of families affected by the Aurora shooting have said charities used victims’ pictures without their permission.
“We looked at all these different disaster events and all had common things,” Larimer said. “A major fundraiser more interested in their own business model than making sure victims were taken care of.”
According to a news release from group spokeswoman Caryn Kaufman, victims’ families from the Columbine High School shooting, the Sept. 11 attacks, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Northern Illinois University shooting, the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings and the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh temple shooting were victimized again because they had difficulty getting money that was donated with the intent of helping them.
The families of those affected by the events should be able to make decisions on how the money is spent, Larimer said.
“If I go to the funeral and put a sympathy card and put in a check ... it goes to the family,” Larimer said. “If the family wants to donate it to Save the Whales, or a cancer fund, or put it into a scholarship, if that makes them feel better, God bless them. That’s how it should go.”
After tragic events, nonprofits established themselves as the go-to place to solicit, collect and distribute donations to support victims’ families, Kaufman said. However, families found that the money was not going to them. Instead it was retained by the nonprofits or distributed to other causes that had little to do with the donor’s intent.
“It’s a tragedy what’s happening to us universally,” Larimer said.
Under the proposed protocol, a national compassion fund would be created specific to each tragedy and would have a consistent and transparent infrastructure for donations. All the money donated would be distributed to victims or their families.
Money also would go toward those who were injured or psychologically traumatized by the tragedy. Donations would be tax-deductible and tax-exempt to victims and their families. The protocol also would be put into place to help prevent fraud.
Larimer said that after receiving donations from numerous people, there was a question on whether it was taxable income. Families had to get a special ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
A charity could be assigned to manage the fund, Larimer said.
“They could manage it and they have to do it the right way,” Larimer said. “If you try to pull a funny game, you could go to jail for fraud.”
To view or sign the petition, go to https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/families-worst-mass-murders-us-history-call-national-compassion-fund/qDKnB1wH