Students rally at state Capitol for gun reform after another school shooting

Democratic lawmakers preparing to introduce bill that would ban ghost guns in the state
Students rally at state Capitol for gun reform after another school shooting
Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 20:09:06-04

DENVER — One day after two faculty members at East High School were shot and injured by a student, hundreds of Denver Public Schools students went to the Colorado State Capitol to call for gun reform.

Students from East High School flooded the hallways, House and Senate galleries — even some lawmakers’ offices — to speak to any legislator who would listen about the changes they would like to see.

“We have to be here because we don't want this to happen again. You don't want to have to take time out of our school just to not be scared and horrified of what just happened to us,” said Beckett Nelson Gardner, a student from East High.

Some students said they want to see the passage of a package of gun reform bills that's currently making its way through the legislature. Others called for the approval of a ban on assault weapons, which faces an uncertain future in the legislature.

“I think it's really unfair that students have to be afraid to go to school, and they have to sort of live in like a fear that, like, something may happen,” said Sean Burtchaell, a senior from George Washington High School. “We're no longer so young that we can be ignored, and I think we need to make our voices heard.”

A few students called for laws to go even further, telling lawmakers they want the minimum age for purchasing a firearm to be raised to 25.

After speaking with legislators, students then went outside for a rally, speaking about their experiences and fears for their future. Back inside the Capitol, Democratic lawmakers are preparing to introduce a bill next week that would ban ghost guns in the state.

“I think it has a direct relationship to what happened in East is that it's one of the ways that students are getting guns is these untraceable firearms. Many of them you can order through mail order kits,” said Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver.

Ghost guns do not have a serial number and can either be 3D printed or purchased in parts then assembled. They are virtually untraceable.

The bill will do three things: outlaw guns without serial numbers, ban the manufacturing of ghost guns and prohibit mail order of the firearm kits.

In 2021, President Joe Biden issued executive orders aimed at ghost guns and other gun modifications, citing the Boulder King Soopers shooting as an example of what at least one of his orders would target.

People with firearms that do not have a serial number would be given 30 days to register them with the state. For those who don’t and are caught with a ghost gun, Hansen says a first and second offense would result in a misdemeanor charge. A third offense would result in a class five felony under the current draft.

Across the state, district attorneys say they have seen a rise in ghost guns. The shooter involved in the Club Q tragedy in Colorado Springs owned ghost guns, according to the El Paso County Sheriff.

Hansen, whose high school-age son was at the Capitol with other students rallying for change, says he knows this bill will not solve gun violence or stop criminals from purchasing firearms illegally, but hopes it will add another layer to help.

“Not any single bill is going to be a comprehensive solution. But if you bring this package together, we think we're going to dramatically increase gun safety and gun violence prevention,” Hansen said.

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