The family of Emily Keyes, a 16-year-old girl who was taken hostage and shot and killed at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado 12 years ago said they are satisfied with a decision by a gun control advocacy group to modify an ad that closely resembles the circumstances of their daughter’s death.
The controversy surrounding the political ad comes just ahead of the Sept. 27 anniversary of the hostage crisis and the death of Emily.
The ad from Giffords PAC — founded by former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — features fictional text messages between a girl named Emily and her mother, during a school shooting. Emily’s final text in the ad is: “Yeah but I’m so scared. I love u. Tell Dad I love him.”
The ad blasts Republican Congressman Mike Coffman for his A rating from the National Rifle Association, and the contributions the group has given him over the years.
“Our initial response was profound disappointment. Ellen and I created the ‘I Love U Guys‘ Foundation to advocate school safety without a political agenda,” stated an email from John-Michael and Ellen Keyes.
The email added that the Giffords organization reached out to them directly to offer their regret and apologies.
“They assured us that the similarities were coincidental and they would be altering the advertisement and reposting a new version on social media and other internet sites. We believe that any connection to the tragedy our family experienced was unintentional.”
Giffords PAC is spending $1.5 million to air the ad in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. In a statement, Giffords PAC agreed to amend the ad, removing the Emily name altogether.
“Given how many families have experienced gun violence tragedies, there isn't any name we could have used that wouldn't be connected to a victim somewhere,” stated Giffords Executive Director Peter Ambler.
Coffman was one of the the first to notice the similarities to the tragic hostage event in Bailey in the ad.
“I respect Gabby Giffords, but exploiting the name and horrible death of one of our own to try to win an election is beneath basic human dignity,” Coffman tweeted Tuesday.
The campaign of his Democratic challenger Jason Crow agreed that the ad should be changed.
“The decision to respect the Keyes family’s wishes and remove any mention of Emily’s name from the ad is the right one. Going forward, Mike Coffman should be outraged whenever gun violence affects families - not just when it affects his re-election campaigns,” said a campaign spokesman.