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Hundreds of students march on the Colorado Capitol to demand action on gun violence

A crowd of hundreds of people, many of them students dressed in red shirts, crowd the outside of the Colorado State Capitol. The view is from just above the crowd, and you can see them spilling into every available space against the outside walls and surrounding three parked cars. Some are holding signs.
Lucas Brady Woods
Students from Denver's East High School flood the State Capitol to demand lawmakers take action against gun violence on Friday, Mar. 3, 2023.

Hundreds of students from Denver’s East High School walked out of class Friday morning and marched on the state Capitol to demand lawmakers take action against gun violence.

The demonstration follows the death of a fellow student, 16-year-old Luis Garcia, who was shot near the school in February and died earlier this week.

The walkout started around 8:00 a.m. Friday, and soon a large crowd moved down 16th Street towards the statehouse chanting “No more silence! End gun violence!” Many wore red in honor of Garcia and in support of gun control. When they reached the Capitol, students flooded the marble halls and crowded into the Senate gallery.

East High School junior Mateo Teller was one of Garcia’s teammates on the soccer team.

We're being forced to grow up so fast. Like, we're here. We're at the Capitol. We're talking to officials. This isn't normal. This shouldn't be the new normal. But we're here because we have to be here.
Mateo Teller, East High School junior

East High School’s chapter of Students Demand Action organized the demonstration. Students say they do not feel safe with the constant threat of gun violence, especially in the wake of Garcia’s shooting.

“We just really need something to happen,” said the group’s co-president Clara Taub, a sophomore. “We don't have a lot of power as students. But our voices are something that we do have, and people listen to us when thousands of us show up. It's just, right now, it's a scary time to be in high school, to be anywhere, to be in America, because you can get shot anywhere.”

A teenage girl poses for a portrait next to a column inside the Colorado state Capitol building. She is wearing a red shirt that says "Students Demand Action."
Lucas Brady Woods
East High School sophomore Clara Taub, pictured at the State Capitol on Friday, Mar. 3, 2023, is the co-president of the school's chapter of Students Demand Action, which organized the march.

Taub called on lawmakers to pass current gun safety bills, especially House Bill 1219, which would impose waiting periods on firearm sales, and Senate Bill 168, which would allow victims of gun violence to sue gun stores and manufacturers.

Lawmakers are also considering Senate Bill 169, which would raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, and Senate Bill 170, which would expand Colorado’s red flag gun laws, also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or ERPO laws.

All four bills are sponsored by Democrats. Republicans oppose them.

A number of lawmakers vowed to take action on Friday morning. Sen. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater, spoke from the Senate floor directly to the students gathered in the gallery above.

“Look to your friends that are on the right and left side of you. Hold onto them. Look to them for support,” said Sullivan. “And you stay with us, OK? You stay with us so that we can get this figured out. So that we can make sure, when your kids get to sit up there and come to work everyday, you’ll be with us. Because we need each and every one of you here. Never forget that.”

Lawmakers on the floor of the Colorado state Capitol look up in the gallery, which is filled with student protestors.
Lucas Brady Woods
Sen. Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater, speaks to East High School students gathered in the Senate chamber on Friday, Mar. 3, 2023.

Members of gun safety organization Moms Demand Action were also at the Capitol supporting the students. They were also there to participate in the group’s Advocacy Day and discuss gun control legislation with lawmakers.

Colorado saw 13 mass shootings last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, including the attack on Club Q in Colorado Springs that killed five people. There have already been three mass shootings this year.

Last month, a series of false reports of school shootings prompted Boulder High School and several other Colorado schools to go into lockdown.

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.