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'It's disgusting that we have to be here': Teachers, students rally to demand gun reform at the state capitol

Some students want to see the passage of a package of gun reform bills working its way through the Colorado legislature and other students are calling for a ban on assault weapons
Posted: 6:44 AM, Mar 24, 2023
Updated: 2023-03-27 16:09:33-04
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DENVER — Hundreds of students and teachers rallied at the state capitol Friday — a day that was supposed to be for healing in the wake of the East High School shooting — to urge lawmakers to take action on gun violence once again.

A large group of people began gathering at around 8:30 a.m. to urge legislators to work towards passing gun violence prevention bills following the shooting at East High on Wednesday that injured two school administrators.

The rally Friday morning, coordinated by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Colorado Education Association, follows a demonstration by East High School teachers and students on Thursday who pressed lawmakers to take action on gun reform.

"Just unbelievable the amount of trauma these students go through. Almost all of my students were in tears," said Kjersten Ostrom Condojni, who teaches prevention education for substance abuse and mental health across DPS high schools. "To have these tragedies happen day in and day out is horrible. Their mental health continues to decline; their anxiety skyrockets. It's hard to have a kid focus on their education when they can't even rely on the fact that they can be safe in a classroom."

Some students want to see the passage of a package of gun reform bills working its way through the Colorado legislature and other students are calling for a ban on assault weapons.

"Our big thing is that we want action, not words. You can keep promising that you're going to make change, but we're not going to believe it until we see it," said Ally, an East High School student who is also part of the local chapter for Students Demand Action, a organization made of young activists committed to ending gun violence in the United States, according to the organization's website.

Other students told Denver7 they would like to see the minimum age to purchase a firearm be raised to 25.

After the shooting at their school, East High School students want these changes now

East High Junior Mateo Tullar, who last month went to Denver City Council to advocate for more safety at his school, was once again calling for an end to gun violence at Friday's march and rally, describing the ongoing issue of school safety a "never-ending spiral."

"It's honestly... it's just terrible. I'm sick to my stomach just thinking about it. It's disgusting that we have to be here to do this," Tullar told Denver7's Bayan Wang. "This is nowhere near mental health day. Mental health days are supposed to help heal and this is is more like a preventative mental health day, in a way. We're here to fight for the future."

Outside East High, parents were gathering before they made their way to join students at the state capitol rally. Among them was Steve, a parent who Denver7 spoke with earlier this week.

Steve told Denver7 that they were now in the early stages of forming a coalition among school parents to make recommendations to the school committee and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero.

"There's a lot of things that need to change. I think everything has been shrouded in mystery and behind closed doors," Steve said. "Why is everything so hidden? They're hiding the ball and we just want to know: Are our kids safe to come back? Our teachers aren’t going to come back unless they know they’re safe."

Frustrated over gun violence, what these East High School parents want to change

Next week, Democratic lawmakers are preparing to introduce a bill that would ban ghost guns in Colorado, Denver7’s Meghan Lopez reported Thursday.

Out of a meeting to discuss school safety, the Denver Public School Board on Thursday suspended a controversial policy that removed school resource officers across the district, directing Marrero to develop a long-term safety plan by the end of the summer.

"This feels like a response that's just thrown at this," Tullar said reacting to the latest development from the district. "This feels like something that he's doing just to say he's doing something. He's treating this from a very political sense, when it really needs to be about human health and life, and it's feeling very manipulative."

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