A group of women will stage a sit-in at the Colorado Capitol to demand Polis declare a state of emergency over gun violence

Colorado Guns
David Zalubowski/AP
Tributes hang on the temporary fence surrounding the parking lot in front of a King Soopers grocery store in which 10 people died in a late March mass shooting, Friday, April 9, 2021, in Boulder, Colo.

A group of women called Here 4 the Kids is asking Gov. Jared Polis to sign an executive order to declare a state of emergency due to gun violence, and to impose “a total ban on all guns and a comprehensive, mandatory buyback program.”

The group plans to start a sit-in on the grounds of the state Capitol early in the morning on June 5.

“This is the beginning of the end of the death of our kids,” said Saira Rao, founder of Here 4 the Kids, in an interview with CPR News.

Rao noted that more children in the U.S. died from firearms in 2020 than any other cause.

“This is a policy choice, having guns murder our kids. All politicians, all leaders – Democrats, Republicans, local state federal – pretend like it’s just the NRA’s fault. No, that’s not true,” Rao said. “Both sides have allowed guns to become the number one killer of all of our children in this country.”

Here 4 the Kids is presenting its draft order to all governors, but is focusing its action in Colorado. Rao knows the group’s demands will be met with challenges and criticisms, but said, “What's radical is expecting our kids to go to school with bulletproof backpacks.” 

Rao ran for Congress in 2018 in Colorado and was defeated in the Democratic primary by incumbent Diana DeGette. She has since moved out of state.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Polis, Conor Cahill, confirmed Here 4 the Kids organizers met with members of the governor’s staff recently.

“The Governor shares the concerns about improving public safety including reducing gun violence,” Cahill said.

But he added that the governor’s staff, “expressed concerns that the requests being made are either unconstitutional or require legislative action.”

"(Polis) will not issue an unconstitutional order that will be struck down in court simply to make a public relations statement — he will continue to focus on real solutions to help make Colorado one of the ten safest states,” Cahill said.

This year, Polis and Democratic majorities in the legislature passed new laws that raise the age for buying guns, impose a waiting period on gun purchases, expand the state’s red flag law, make it easier to sue gun manufacturers for incidents of violence, and try to crack down on ghost guns.

Rao said that across the country, state gun laws haven’t done enough to protect people. She was spurred to start Here 4 the Kids after three children and three adults were shot dead at a Nashville school earlier this year.

She acknowledged the unconstitutionality of her group’s demands to ban guns and force a buyback, but said the point is that this level of action has not been tried before. 

“This obviously flies in the face of the Constitution – of the Second Amendment,” she said. “We would like to see the 28th Amendment repealing the Second Amendment. So yes, we are not morons. We are very well aware that this is unconstitutional, and this is how change happens.”

An organizer with Here 4 the Kids, Wolf Terry, of Lakewood, said she plans to be at the Capitol on Monday, and she hopes thousands of others will be there, too, prompted by social media outreach and recent canvassing by volunteers.

“Before a couple weeks ago, I was a writer and I was just a loud, politically opinionated white woman on Instagram. Now I'm experiencing the world as an activist. And I'm so grateful,” Terry said.

Here 4 the Kids is specifically calling on white women to demonstrate, on the premise that white women have demonstrable power and privilege in America, including that they are least likely to be hurt by police, but rarely show up to exercise it.

The group’s leadership is composed of women of color, including Rao, who say Second Amendment advocates have been controlling debates over gun policy for too long.

“That side has been playing chess, they've been strategic, they have been devoted, they've been dedicated," she said. "They're well-funded, they're patient. And we have been blowing bubbles.”