Coloradans join others across the nation in gun control “March for our Lives”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
21 children lie in Civic Center Park’s Greek amphitheater to represent 21 people killed in Uvalde, Texas, during a “March For Our Lives” rally at Civic Center Park. June 11, 2022.

Hundreds of Denver residents joined others in cities across the nation Saturday in marches to seek greater gun control following yet another mass slaying in a school. 

The “March For Our Lives” was started in response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 and wounded 17 others. Saturday’s rallies followed the most recent large shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. 

Seven Denver metro area high school students organized the event at Denver’s Civic Center Park in two weeks. It was one of 12 marches planned in Colorado cities on Saturday.

Lead Denver organizer, teenager Brady Roland, thinks Colorado does an okay job at gun legislation. The state has existing universal background check requirements, a red flag law allowing guns to be temporarily taken from people who may be a danger to themselves or others and a restriction on the size of ammunition magazines. But, she believes it’s not enough.

“There are so many things we need to improve on because it’s not enough,”  Roland said.  “The main reason we’re doing this rally is to push legislators to accomplish what we need in order for children and innocent people not to be shot every single day.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Brady Roland, lead organizer of the Denver "March For Our Lives" rally at Civic Center Park on June 11, 2022.

U.S Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), State Sen. Tammy Story, D-Jeffco, and Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel died in the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, were among the guest speakers at the rally.  There was a an 11-minute moment of silence to mark that the student victims of the Uvalde shooting were age 11 and under.  Twenty-one volunteers laid down in the park’s Greek amphitheater to represent each of those killed in that Texas elementary school.

Hitting closer to Colorado, the rally brought up Columbine, the Aurora theater shooting in 2012 and more recently, last year's shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. Ten people were killed that day.  On Tuesday, three Boulder County cities, Boulder, Louisville, and Superior, passed local gun ordinances on restricting possession, sale and carrying of firearms.

There were no counter protesters at the Denver rally, but gun rights advocates have argued that the U.S. does not need more gun restrictions, but should focus on mental health treatment and better security to protect students.  

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Alysson Olson, a survivor of the 2013 Arapahoe High School shooting, speaks during a "March For Our Lives" rally at Civic Center Park. June 11, 2022.

Debbie Burke and her family moved to Parker from Ohio.  She and her family attended the rally because the shootings of young children has not unified Congress to do anything.  The mother of four adult children said that she would be scared to send her children to school during these times.  Burke thinks that guns should have similar regulations to tobacco and cars.

 “If you want to own a gun because you like target shooting or you like hunting because you find recreation in that, great,”  Burke said.  “Have a background check, have training, be licensed, be insured, and be required to keep that weapon safe.  Everything I do with a car I think should apply with gun ownership.” 

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Lucy Sarkissian, a survivor of the 2019 STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting, speaks during a "March For Our Lives" rally at Civic Center Park. June 11, 2022.

Jayden McNeely was in high school in Arvada when the Columbine shooting occured in 1999.  He then worked with war refugees overseas.  Now, he, his wife and 5-year-old live in Aurora.  He still gets calls from overseas about the gun violence in the U.S.  

“Even in their own country they can’t imagine schools being shot up because they are not even there. There’s war in their country,” McNeely said.  “They wouldn’t dream of going and killing 5-year-olds in a school.”  

He thinks it’s the government’s duty to protect citizens  from gun violence even if it makes people uncomfortable.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Tim (left) and Debbie Burke brought signs to a "March For Our Lives" rally at Civic Center Park. June 11, 2022.

Kennedy Dechant and Pennie Nichol are students at the University of Northern Colorado.  They attended the rally, but, their signs also touched on abortion rights. 

“It doesn’t make sense that we’re forcing women to not have a choice over their own body and then they don’t have choice that their kids go a school and end up dying at school,” said Nichol, who was a senior at ThunderRidge High School when the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting happened in 2019. One student, Kendrick Castillo, was killed in that shooting when he intervened, likely saving the lives of classmates.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Rennyn Boland (from left), Janie Trimmer and Christy Boland brought protest signs to a "March For Our Lives" rally at Civic Center Park. June 11, 2022.

The March For Our Lives rally was the second anit-gun rally for 8-year-old Rennyn Boland of Lakewood.  He came with his mother, Christy, and grandmother Janie Trimmer of Fort Collins.  After knowing children his age died in the Uvalde shooting, he wants to attend more rallies against gun-violence.

”I think we should keep doing these marches and hopefully someday gun violence will stop,”  Boland said.  “I thought it was sad that all those people got shot and died and I feel sorry for the people’s families.  I think we should have more protection.”
Hundreds also turned out in Longmont, Fort Collins and elsewhere.  The largest demonstration took place  in Washington, D.C. where 40,000 descended on the National Mall.