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Protestors stage sit-in at the state Capitol to demand all-out gun ban from Gov. Polis

Protestors stand and hold signs on the front steps of the Colorado statehouse.
Lucas Brady Woods
Protestors gathered on the front steps of the Colorado statehouse Monday to demand Gov. Jared Polis take executive action to ban guns across the state and implement a gun buyback program. Polis said such an order would be unconstitutional.

Passing cars honked in support as hundreds of protesters staged a sit-in in front of the state Capitol Monday to demand drastic action from Gov. Jared Polis on gun violence. Demonstrators want Polis, via executive order, to declare a gun violence state-of-emergency, ban all guns in the state including within law enforcement, and implement a gun buyback program.

“I'm here to speak for teachers who don't feel safe and sometimes feel powerless,” Emilee Claypool, a Denver-area elementary school teacher and one of the protestors, said. “There's just this undercurrent of constant stress and fear. I mean, I've spent time in closets, not knowing what was going to happen, and it wasn't a drill.”

The Denver chapter of the national Here 4 The Kids movement led the sit-in. The group was launched after a mass shooting in Nashville in March and calls for white women to use their “privilege” to stand on the front lines of protests to protect people of color who have been historically marginalized and are disproportionately at risk for retaliation.

“We're showing up. We're taking our orders from amazing Black, brown and Indigenous women of color and we are creating a peaceful movement with one simple plea: ban guns,” Wolf Terry, a field organizer with the Denver chapter of Here 4 The Kids, said. “That is why white women are here today at the Capitol to stand in a place where we have never stood before and say: enough is enough.”

Gun deaths among children rose by 50% between 2019 and 2021, making firearms the leading cause of death for kids and teens in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 Emilee Claypool poses in front of the state Capitol.
Lucas Brady Woods
Emilee Claypool is a Denver elementary school teacher. She said many of her fellow teachers feel powerless in the face of gun violence.

Polis released a statement saying that his staff met with the organizers of the demonstration to tell them that the ban they’re proposing would be unconstitutional.

“The Governor takes the weighty responsibility of executive action and the trust Coloradans placed in him to govern responsibly seriously, and will not issue an unconstitutional order that will be struck down in court simply to make a public relations statement — he will continue to focus on real solutions to help make Colorado one of the ten safest states,” the statement said.

Polis’ office also referenced the recent package of state legislation aimed at curbing gun violence. He signed bills into law over the last few months that will impose a waiting period on gun purchases, raise the gun-purchasing age to 21, expand the state’s red flag laws, make it easier for gun violence victims to sue the gun industry, and ban so-called ghost guns. Gun-rights group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners filed lawsuits against two of the measures soon after they were signed.

Demonstrators, however, say those measures fall short and called out lawmakers for failing to pass an assault weapons ban.

“It's not enough because people are still dying every day. We still have assault weapons out on the streets. And an assault weapon can kill a lot of people quickly,” Vickie Wilhite, a demonstrator who has grandchildren in the Denver school system, said. “Let me be clear, we are very happy about what we've done. But it's not enough.”

Two signs with markered words on them read "Ban guns" and "I am here for Lyle & James."
Lucas Brady Woods
Many of the protestors carried signs with the names of children on them, like the one pictured here. Guns have become the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rep. Javier Mabrey, a progressive state lawmaker who co-sponsored one of the new gun-control laws, agrees with the demonstrators.

“One thing that is abundantly clear is we are not doing enough to address gun violence in this country, or in this state.” Mabrey said. “We should have passed the assault weapons bans. And, you know, there are other creative solutions.”

Mabrey said he’s considering introducing legislation next year that would hold the gun industry further accountable for acts of gun violence.

Protest organizers say they plan to continue the sit-in daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until the government takes action.

I’m the Statehouse Reporter at KUNC, which means I help make sense of the latest developments at the Colorado State Capitol. I cover the legislature, the governor, and government agencies.
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