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Denver East students to continue fighting gun violence | News | #hacking | #aihp

For students at Denver’s East High School, the issue of gun violence became personal this year. 

A 17-year-old student shot and wounded two deans inside of the school in March, and later fatally shot himself. Weeks earlier, 16-year-old East student Luis Garcia died after being shot while sitting in his car on the school campus. A freshman was similarly shot near the campus in September, and the school went into lockdown multiple times after false swatting reports. 

In the face of such tragedies, the students of East High School turned to their state lawmakers for help. 

Hundreds of East students flooded the state Capitol four times throughout the legislative session, demanding action be taken to combat gun violence. East students were present to testify at nearly every public hearing on gun control measures — in one case merely hours after suffering a school shooting. 

“We don’t feel like we’re choosing to do this. We feel like we have to do this because we’re not safe otherwise,” said Gracie Taub, a 16-year-old East student about to finish her sophomore year. 

Gracie and her twin sister Clara Taub were behind much of the school’s advocacy this year. The sisters founded the East High School chapter of the gun violence prevention organization Students Demand Action during their freshman year. They are currently co-presidents of the group. 

“I don’t think either of us imagined the scale that we would be doing this on,” Clara said. “We’ve just kind of been winging it. … We’re going through this trauma and then advocating for how we can make things better.” 

Taub East High

Clara Taub (in black, back turned) rallies East High students as they prepare to talk to lawmaker about the gun violence that hit their school this week. 

The students saw successes during the session, most notably supporting the passage of a nation-leading package of gun control bills, including increasing the age to purchase firearms to 21, expanding the state’s red flag law and establishing a three-day waiting period to deliver purchased firearms. They also fought against rejected bills to nullify federal firearm regulations in Colorado and to give immunity to business owners, employees and customers who kill intruders.

But the session wasn’t only wins. An effort to ban assault weapons in Colorado failed to pass, with many opponents arguing it should be a national policy. 

Gracie and Clara said this is an issue they faced many times throughout the year. In the wake of their school’s explosion of gun violence, East students didn’t only go to the state Capitol. They also appealed to their school board and the Denver City Council to take action to protect them. 

“It’s passing the blame off to somebody else,” Gracie said. “Our school board said this is the city council’s job. The city council said this is the state’s job. The state says this is a federal thing. … They’re not necessarily wrong, but someone needs to claim responsibility.” 

East students said they also experienced some lawmakers slamming doors in their faces, insulting them on social media, and “ignoring the facts” about gun violence and prevention. Gracie and Clara called the legislative process slow, and lamented how it is “so hard to change minds.” 

“Some of that is ignorance, definitely. But some of that is just cowardice. They don’t want to do the right thing because it’s going to affect their political seat,” Clara said. “A personal view is not going to overpower all of the lives that have been lost. So, that’s frustrating. But it’s actually incredible to see teenagers handle these situations with such grace.” 

New laws set to vault Colorado up gun safety rankings | 2023 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Overall, Gracie and Clara said they are happy with the progress made this session, but they are not yet satisfied. 

They are particularly excited about the bills that raised the minimum age for firearm purchases and expanded the state’s red flag law. They hope these changes will help prevent school shootings by making it harder for 18-year-old high school students to access weapons, and by allowing teachers and school counselors to seek extreme risk protection orders. 

Next, they want to see lawmakers pass an assault weapons ban and pursue legislation to strengthen requirements for background checks, firearm storage and permitting of firearm sellers. And the East students will be there to keep pushing lawmakers along the way. 

Gracie and Clara said East students plan to stay involved with the state legislature next session, advocating for bills and potentially helping to write legislation or ballot measures. They also want to engage in their upcoming school board election.

“This is the only option. Because the other option is that we’re silent, but still have to experience these traumatic events,” Gracie said. “There’s so much that needs to change. … I’m pleased, but I’m excited to see what else we can achieve in the future because this is not enough.” 

The sisters will also return to East High School for their junior year in August, though they said many of their fellow students, and even teachers, will not. 

“That was definitely something that came up with our parents that we both fought very hard against,” Clara said. “The reality is gun violence is everywhere in America. We wouldn’t be sheltered if we went to another school.” 

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