Colorado Joins The Nation As Crowds Hit The Streets For The ‘March For Our Lives’

<p>(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)</p>
<p>March For Our Lives protesters flooded Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, and gathered in smaller numbers around the state on Saturday, demanding an end to gun violence and more restrictions on access to firearms.</p>
Photo: March For Our Lives Denver Crowds 1 (NM)
March For Our Lives protesters flooded Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, and gathered in smaller numbers around the state on Saturday, demanding an end to gun violence and more restrictions on access to firearms.

Students, teachers, parents, survivors and advocates all led the nation from Washington D.C. as the Capitol served as the backdrop for the March For Our Lives. The rally, and all of the sibling rallies, were organized in response to the February school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In Colorado, many rallies are expected across the state, with the biggest to be held in Denver’s Civic Center Park. We’ll be following rallies across the state and you can get updates below — live updates have concluded.

Saturday Updates

5:11 p.m. - Denver, Civic Center
Today’s large gun control protest is wrapping up.

Thousands turned out to call for stricter laws on firearms. Protester Beth Dougherty's daughter was a student at Columbine High School during the shooting there 19 years ago.

“We really thought Columbine would be the last mass shooting... sick and tired of it,” she said.

The march in the Mile High City — and in Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs and across the state — were part of larger national effort that followed in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Students were demonstrating their frustration with perceived inaction on school safety and gun control measures. Signs for the day declared “Protect Kids, Not Guns,” “Lives Over Bribes,” “Mass Shootings Are Not The Price Of Freedom” and “Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner: Choose The NRA or Us.”

As the march nears its end, here’s a curbside view

While action and tighter regulation was the big demand at the march, views on the issue were very different at the Cherry Creek Family Shooting Center just south of downtown Denver. Everyone at the center enjoying an afternoon of sport shooting knew there were protests going one, but the common feeling was that gun control advocates were missing the mark.

There was a sense too that people who protest guns or call for gun control often don't understand guns, and the heavy emphasis on gun safety at ranges like this. One survey shows about one third of Coloradans own a gun. And the vast majority of them use them safely and with respect, according to these enthusiasts.

Last batch of photos from the Denver #marchforourlives

4:37 p.m. - Colorado Springs
Hundreds showed up in Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs to march for tighter gun laws.

According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, there are between 45,000 and 46,000 citizens in the county with concealed handgun permits. That’s more than any other county in the state. On Saturday, many said that gun control in this area could be an uphill battle.

Meghan Taylor, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Manitou Springs Middle School, said she marched "because it's important that we're not afraid and we show enough is enough."

The crowd chanted “not one more,” “enough is enough” and “NRA go away” as they marched. Police were scattered along the march route, which stretched a few city blocks.

Mothers Against School Shootings founder Linda Cantu organized the Colorado Springs march. With the march over, she said she wants to start working with teachers.

“I think teachers are a huge part of this,” said Cantu. “I need to know what the teachers think and what the teachers want in the classroom. I want to know if the teachers want to be armed and if they don’t want to be armed, I want to know what they need… to keep their students safe in school.”

She said she personally does not support arming teachers.

4:23 p.m. - Denver, Civic Center
The March For Our Lives in Denver is starting to wind down.

Lots of families were part of the student-inspired protest, like the Galvins. Harris, 14, said guns are doing a lot more harm than good.

“I’ve seen violence,” Galvin said, relating that a friend recently took his life with a gun. Harris reported his suicide threat to Safe2Tell, the state’s anonymous hotline made for students — but help got there too late.

Galvin feels like her voice is being heard here at the march, and the walkout at her school earlier this March. Yet, she’s aware some students think they won’t do any good.

“And I’ve heard that instead of focusing on the gun part, we should focus on counseling students,” Harris said. “But I feel like no matter what, there is always going to be that outsider that’s going to feel upset. And if there is access to guns then, they’re going to get access to that, and it’s not going to good.”

Harris’ mother, Davida Wright Galvin, said she’s very proud of her daughter for wanting to join the march.

4:01 p.m.
Here's a quick visual check-in with Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins via Twitter:

The march finished back at Acacia Park in CSprings. Organizer Linda Cantu, below in the green, says the turnout exceeded her expectations. What's next for her org, Mothers Against School Shootings? She wants to find ways to support teachers. #MarchForOurLives

And a few more from #marchforourlives #denver in Civic Center Park.

Massive turnout at the Fort Collins, CO #MarchForOurLives Speakers calling for action. @KUNC @NPR

3:35 p.m. - Grand Junction
A few hundred people marched from Lincoln Park to Grand Junction's City Hall Saturday inspired by a national movement to limit access to guns and reduce gun violence. Though the crowd on the Western Slope was mostly older, teenagers ran the programming.

Organizers didn’t close off any roads, so marchers stayed on the sidewalks chanting ‘This Is What Democracy Looks Like!” and crossing the intersections during the mile-long walk. Chants were punctuated by honking cars. No police activity was reported.

Photo: Gun March Grand Junction Christine Gallagher (Sherry)
Christine Gallagher at the March For Our Lives protest in Grand Junction on March 24, 2018.

Doug Congour worked in Washington, D.C. for the State Department and Secret Service and carried a sign that read ‘This Gun Owner supports background checks, registration, training, licensing and banning assault rifles.’ Congour now lives in Montrose and is married to a teacher – he said she was horrified about the prospect of carrying a gun to school.

“One thing I’m certain of is there are too many guns in too many people’s hands,” said Congour, 62. “The last thing this country needs is more untrained, unlicensed people with unregistered firearms … and expecting we’re going to be safer.”

From Grand Junction

3:21 p.m. - Denver, Civic Center
Speeches in Civic Center park have given way to a march around downtown. Similar to other rallies around the state, both gun violence protesters and pro-gun counter-demonstrators made their way to event.

Thornton’s Joseph Campbell, a teacher, can be counted among those are not in support of arming teachers as a solution to ensuring safety in schools.

“Teachers went to school to teach,” he said. “We didn’t go to school to carry weapons. I work with special ed students — I can’t have a gun on me. I went to correct papers I didn’t go to school to be a police officer, I didn’t want to be one.”

Doreen Dubs of Denver is marching with a sign saying “Time to amendment the Amendment,” in reference to the Constitution’s right to bear arms.

“We're living with an archaic amendment that needs to be fixed,” she said. “I'd love to ban assault rifles and all the weapons that people don't need to protect themselves.”

3:00 p.m. - Denver, Civic Center
Here's a quick look at signs and the crowd in Denver via Twitter:

Denver March for Our Lives. Massive crowd, lots of kids. "We're here, we're bold and we're not going anywhere."

Both of Joseph Campbell’s kids went to Columbine High. He says one still suffers from PTSD from the attack. Campbell is a teacher, and says there aren’t enough school resources around mental health. He’s joining today’s #MarchForOurLives in Denver.

Melissa Strassner was a freshman during the Columbine shooting. “Sandy Hook broke me. These Parkland kids have given me hope. Parkland has my boxing gloves back on.” @NewsCPR #marchforourlives

Thousands have filled Civic Center Park for the #MarchForOurLives rally in Denver. March will start shortly. #denver7

2:47 p.m. - Denver, Cherry Creek State Park
A lot of the patrons at the Cherry Creek Family Shooting Center focus on the recreational aspects of gun ownership. Safety, either through gained experience or training, is also frequently mentioned.

Robert Burnside & his wife came to the shooting range because “it is fun.” When he brings newcomers he says they quickly break out in a smile after a few rounds.

Says if more people were exposed to gun culture, and the emphasis on safety, they’d be less afraid. #MarchForOurLives

Using approved background checks as a proxy, there have been noticeable spikes in gun ownership in Colorado. During the election year of 2008, leading up to the election of President Barack Obama, there was a 26 percent increase in approved background checks reported by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. There are several spikes during Obama’s two-terms, mostly driven by fears about new gun control measures following shooting incidents during those years.

Gun control fears have faded under President Donald Trump, yet gun sales in Colorado only fell off 5 percent. Advocates and gun store owners guess that the new concerns over crime are keeping sales afloat.

2:30 - Denver, Civic Center
The state’s largest expected March For Our Lives rally is underway. Protesters and signs have crowded shoulder to shoulder in Civic Center Park

Photo: Gun March Denver Civic Center Park Crowd Wide 3 Fender
March For Our Lives protesters gathering in Civic Center Park, Denver, March 24, 2018.

Speakers for Denver include Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999; Rev. Tammy Williams whose son is a Columbine survivor; and Marcus Weaver, who survived 2012 the Aurora theater shooting.

Maddie King, a survivor of the Stone Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida will also speak ahead of the march, which will circle downtown before arriving back at the Capitol. As speakers lined up to address the crowd, a chant of “where is [Sen. Cory] Gardner” picked up.

Chanel Sturm, a CU Boulder student, says “we shouldn’t be scared of going to school.” #MarchForOurLives

2:09 p.m. - Grand Junction
On the Western Slope, the March For Our Lives rally in Grand Junction found students of all ages in Lincoln Park.

Fifteen-year-old Grace Smith is marching because she wants a better world and doesn’t want that opportunity threatened. Smith continued with “everyone's life is valuable and is going to contribute to the world eventually. And there shouldn't be a risk that that could be taken away when they're trying to learn the things that they want to contribute.”

Parker Virden, 14, of East Middle School thinks that assault-style weapons should be banned. “I think it's fine to own a gun,” but the student felt that assault-style weapons are not needed. He also said he supported background checks and raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21.

One student professed to be very political and is ready to be an active voter. Like Virden, 16-year-old Gaby Smith said she’s concerned about access to guns as there are lot of questions about restrictions and who should be really allowed to possess a firearm.

Gaby Smith, 16, says her Fruita Monument HS has a lockdown right after Parkland and it scared her. She notes she can’t wait to vote in 2020.

1:52 p.m. - Colorado Springs
Crowds are chanting “Show us what democracy looks like! This IS what democracy looks like!” Even in El Paso County, one of the state’s more conservative counties.

Fifty-nine-year-old Tom Howes of Colorado Springs showed up to handout free peace and love buttons, a family hobby of 15 years, he said.

“So, I'm a retired schoolteacher. I've been a teacher for the last 30 years and I always felt it was so sad that we had to do active shooter drills with the 9- and 10-year olds in my class. And it's just absolutely disgusting that Sandy Hook didn't stop this. That we have to keep on going.”

“It is the darkest cave that needs the candle the most,” the self-admitted liberal said of living in a conservative town.

“I think anyone who takes a look at gun ownership statistics will be convinced that gun ownership actually makes you less safe, you're more likely to be killed by somebody in your home or somebody in your family. If you just look at the statistics the states with the most guns have the most deaths, particularly suicides.”

Former educator Tom Howes made buttons for today’s #marchforourlives rally in Colorado Springs. Says it’s an uphill battle fighting for tighter gun laws in El Paso County, which has highest # of concealed handgun permits in state.

1:25 p.m.
Here's a quick view around the state via Twitter with marches underway or preparing to start:

Very large crowd continuing to stream out of acacia park @KRCC #MarchForOurLives #ColoradoSprings

NOW: #MarchForOurLives is starting at Durango High School

About 1,000 people have converged for the #marchforourlives in #Longmont.

From Grand Junction

1:13 p.m. - Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs’ march started at 11:30 a.m. at Acacia Park. Student speeches were part of the start of the rally. Alexis Baca, from Harrison High School, told the crowd that school shootings are “a horrible truth that nobody should have to face.”

Elaborating on shooter safety drills that are common in schools now, Baca said that “kids, no older than 5-, 6-years-old are being taught that if a shooter is in the room, that they are going to die, and they need to save their classmates before themselves. They need to face that truth and that is not OK!”

Later, pro-Second Amendment supporters arrived and engaged with the crowd. Zach Rosen of Colorado Springs felt the rally was “propagating a lot of good talk between people” and was a positive part of the conversation.

Rosen agrees that it’s not just guns, but that there needs to be “focus on a lot of the regulations that we have now that aren't being implemented, that aren't being followed. That's obviously coming down to our police officers or our federal government on that.”

Some pro-Second-Amendment individuals showed up, some with their firearms, and have engaged in conversations with protesters. #marchforourlives

For him, there’s also another part of the argument: What has brought us to the point where students want to commit school shootings? Rosen continued, “what is going on in the way that we are raising our children in our households and stuff, that we are having these kind of mental disorders at such a young age? I think it's just bring up a lot of things a lot of people aren't really thinking about and it's a good topic.”

12:42 p.m.
Colorado Public Radio reporters are on site across the state in Colorado Springs, Denver, Grand Junction and at a Denver-area gun range in search or another perspective on today’s events. Early reports from Ben Markus, on scene at the Cherry Creek Family Shooting Center is that patrons there feel that March For Our Lives protesters don’t understand guns and gun culture, especially the emphasis on safety in the club environments.

Before #MarchForOurLives gets underway in Denver, gun enthusiasts are enjoying the day at the shooting range.

Shop filling up with customers now.

You can follow all of our reporter in the field via this Twitter list. Additionally, we’ll have live coverage of the rally in Denver’s Civic Center park with Colorado Matters at 2 p.m.

12:27 p.m. - Colorado Springs
Rebecca Atkinson, a retired high school English teacher, joined the crowd because she doesn’t want to see armed teacher.

“I think it's ridiculous,” she said. “I didn't get a master's degree so that I could go back to the Old West and shoot them up. You know that's not what I'm there for.”

She says that shortly after the Columbine attack, one of her ninth grade English students threatened to shoot up her class. "So that's when it started and ever since then, it's always been in the back of my mind. I have to know what I would do, in case the worse would happen: where would I go, how would I get the kids out? What would we do? As a last measure, what we do? How would save as many kids as I could?"

Former educator Rebecca Atkinson of Hasty, Colorado came today to march for students and teachers. Says, every day since Columbine, she thought about how to protect her students in the event of a shooting. #marchforourlives

Atkinson also looked to encourage — challenged almost — every teacher to get out to vote and do something about the situation.