About 200 people gathered outside the state Capitol Sunday evening in response to three mass shootings in the past week.
Kirsten Hirsch, a volunteer for Moms Demand Action who lives in Highlands Ranch, was there. She said she’s a gun owner and believes it’s possible to end gun violence. “We’ve banned large magazines here in Colorado, but that’s not the case in Ohio.
“I think that we can have reasonable gun laws like so many other countries and still have the ability to have personal freedom. But personal freedom doesn’t extend to the point where you can gun down people at will. We’re at 250 mass shootings so far this year. There’s no freedom in that,” Hirsch said.
The event was a “Call to Action” after shootings in Gilroy, California, on July 28; El Paso, Texas, on Saturday; and Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning. In all, 32 people were killed and another 66 were injured.
Like Hirsch, others gathered in Denver Sunday called on voters to defeat state and federal lawmakers who don’t support “common sense” gun laws. At one point rally organizers asked people to take out their phones and prepare to send letters to lawmakers demanding universal background checks. Several people held signs denouncing racism and white supremacy.
Meanwhile, at least two people yelled “Trump 2020” from cars passing by the rally.
Tay Anderson, a recent Denver Public Schools graduate who now works for the district and is running for school board, organized the event. In a message on the event’s Facebook page, Anderson said, “We must continue to fight gun violence every day, in every setting.” He noted shootings in Chicago over the weekend killed and wounded dozens of people, but received far less attention than the events in Dayton and El Paso.
At about 8:20pm, people used cell phones and flashlights as digital “candles,” observing a moment of silence for those who have been killed in mass shootings.
Erin Lackore came to the event with her teenage son Gavin. “I want him to know that racism is wrong,” Lackore said. “I want him to hear from people who are experiencing it because we have the privilege. He has the most privilege as a young, white male and I want him to understand that privilege and use it the way that he should, to help other people.”
Several people competing to run against Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 spoke Sunday evening. Sen. Gardner, a Republican, has received criticism for getting financial support from the NRA. On Sunday, he tweeted his condolences and labeled the shooting in El Paso, where the suspect is believed to have written a white supremecist and anti-Hispanic manifesto online, a “case of domestic terrorism,” which echoes prosecutors in the case.
Hours before the event Sunday evening, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who’s now running for the Democratic nomination for president, also spoke outside the state Capitol. He called for federal legislation around guns, including universal background checks, limits on high-capacity magazines, and red flag laws. He also pointed to a Colorado program that encourages family physicians to ask patients about their mental health on a regular basis as part of the solution to address mass shootings.
Hickenlooper was governor during the Aurora theater shooting and the Arapahoe High School shooting, and told reporters that these types of events have been the most frustrating thing he’s encountered in public life.
CPR's Natalia Navarro and Denverite's Kevin Beaty contributed reporting.