AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Survivors of mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut were among those gathered Friday in a suburban Denver park to honor those killed in the massacre at an Aurora movie theater a year after the attack.
The vigil participants will read a list of names of those killed in gun violence across the nation since the elementary school shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., in December.
The event, however, was denounced as a political rally by a gun rights group that held its own gathering nearby.
The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association assailed Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a sponsor of Friday's remembrance, saying the group has attacked Second Amendment rights.
Dudley Brown, executive director of the gun rights group, said his members would be respectful and accused the mayors association and its founder, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of politicizing the Aurora massacre to promote gun control.
While other memorials to the Aurora victims have been "wholly appropriate," Brown said, "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."
A Colorado state lawmaker called the counterprotest at Cherry Creek State Park an insult to those still grieving after the Aurora shooting on July 20, 2012.
"It's a slap in the face of the people who are suffering the loss of a loved one," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat whose district includes the movie theater where 12 people were killed and 70 wounded one year ago Saturday.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns said participants will read 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. Saturday, the moment that the shootings began in the Aurora theater last year
Meanwhile, Brown's group prepared its rally in a parking lot that is a five-minute walk from a picnic shelter where the victims' ceremony was being held. State Parks spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said both groups had permits and that park rangers and law officers would be present to keep the peace.
The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association opposes gun control measures that became law in Colorado this month, including universal background checks and a limit on high-capacity magazines.
Police say the man charged in the Aurora shootings, James Holmes, had a rifle and a high-capacity magazine able to fire 100 bullets.
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