Students across Jefferson County gathered Wednesday night to cap a day of protests where thousands across the state — and nationwide — joined a national walk out to call for gun control and school safety.
Organized by students, the evening rally in Arvada brought more than a hundred students, parents, educators and lawmakers together to talk about gun violence. Caitlin Danborn, an Arvada West High School junior, described the fear students feel at school.
“We’ve had enough of spending class periods huddled against a wall in dark classrooms practicing lockdowns with the thought in the back of our heads that this could be real one day, it could be our school one day,” she told the assembled crowd.
A dozen high schoolers gave speeches, shared personal stories or performed. The student organizers also arranged for Democratic state Sen. Andy Kerr to say a few words.
“As a parent, as a teacher, as your senator, I’m sorry. You do not deserve to have to rally for your basic safety,” he said. “I intended better things for you and I want better things for you.”
The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School had a heavy presence at the rally. Balloons with the names of the 13 victims sat on stage directly behind the speakers. Tom Mauser, father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser encouraged students in the audience to arm themselves with information and enter the debate for stricter gun laws.
“I’ve been doing this for 19 years now and I do it in honor of my son,” he said. “I wear his shoes, we were the same shoe size. These were the shoes he was wearing that day at Columbine and I proudly wear them. I feel that I’ve stepped into the debate in his place.”
Another speaker was Paula Reed, a teacher at Columbine who lived through the school shooting. In her speech she rejected the idea of arming teachers, because “no child should ever be shot, especially not in school, especially not by a teacher.”
After the rally, “action tables” were set up at the exits collecting donations for pro-gun control organizations and asking any student 16 and up to register to vote.