1,000 women hold a sit-in at the Colorado Capitol to push for an end to gun violence | #schoolsaftey

DENVER — More than 1,000 women flocked to the Colorado Capitol in the first light of dawn Monday with the weighty goal of ending gun violence in the U.S., one state at a time.

Mothers in workout leggings held signs bearing photos of their children and others settled into camping chairs and picnic blankets on the Capitol lawn for a sit-in organized by Here 4 the Kids, a group founded in March by the authors and social justice advocates Tina Strawn, of Texas, and Saira Rao, of Virginia.

Tina Strawn.Courtesy Tina Strawn

The women, both mothers, said they were moved to act by the mass shooting in March at The Covenant School, a private Christian institution in Nashville, Tennessee, in which six people were killed, including three children.

So far this year, the Gun Violence Archive has tallied 276 mass shootings in the U.S. Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teenagers, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Banning guns isn’t radical,” Rao said last week. “What’s radical is normalizing dropping our kids off at school and not knowing if we will pick them up alive. What’s radical is going to the mall and getting murdered. Banning guns, the No. 1 killer of our kids, is sensible.”

Saira Rao.Courtesy Saira Rao

Strawn, 45, who is black, and Rao, 48, who is Indian American, said they were inspired by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to hold a peaceful sit-in and encouraged women of color to participate virtually in a simultaneous remote campaign.

Black people experience the highest firearm homicide rates in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

White women were specifically encouraged to participate in-person “because they have a lot of power within our society and statistically are also least likely to be harmed by police,” said Here 4 the Kids communications director Jo Lorenz.

Organizers had hoped for 25,000 protesters on site Monday, but by 8 a.m., there were closer to 1,500.

The plan was for the sit-in to continue until Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order declaring a 30-day state of emergency, suspending the sale of guns during that period and ordering “a total ban on all guns and a comprehensive, mandatory buyback program.”

Women hold a sit-in at the Colorado Capitol on Monday to push for an end to gun violence.KUSA

A spokeswoman for Polis, Melissa Dworkin, said in an email that the Here 4 the Kids’ requests were “either unconstitutional or require legislative action.”

While Polis shares the organization’s concerns about reducing gun violence, he “will not issue an unconstitutional order that will be struck down in court simply to make a public relations statement,” Dworkin said.

But Here 4 the Kids is undeterred, Lorenz said.

“Why not enact this change? This makes sense for America. It pushes America forward,” Lorenz said. “For a country filled with people who pride themselves on innovation and leadership, we have lost our innovation and imagination when it comes to this.

“We are imagining a different and better U.S., and it starts in Colorado.”

Colorado was chosen as the location for Here 4 the Kids’ first action because Polis, a Democrat, supports stricter gun laws and the state has been the site of some of the nation’s most infamous mass shootings, including Columbine High School in 1999, the Aurora movie theater in 2012, and Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub, in 2022, organizers said.

The state’s rate of gun violence reached a 40-year high in 2021, according to an analysis conducted by the Colorado Sun.

The event Monday was billed not only as a call to action but a remembrance of those killed by guns.

Volunteers speaking through small megaphones read the names and ages of those killed by gun violence in the seven weeks since Here 4 the Kids launched. Horns honked as people drove by.

Marissa, a resident of Lafayette, Colorado, who did not want her last name used for privacy reasons, took an unpaid day off to attend with a group of friends and neighbors. She held a sign decorated with photos of her two children, 8 and 10 years old.

“Sending them to school every day feels like an act of courage, and I want to be able to say that we did something to try to change this because it doesn’t have to be this way,” she said.

A woman named Rena, who also did not want her last name used, said she flew in from New York with a friend to participate.

“There are children all around this country, including my own beautiful [15-year-old] child, who are terrified, with good reason,” said Rena, 57. “I’m using my body to be here, to show up, to make it clear, physically, visibly clear, that we will not stand for this s— any longer.”

Polis signed four gun-control bills in April that raised the legal age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21; mandated a three-day waiting period between purchasing and receiving a gun; expanded the state’s red flag law to allow doctors, mental health professionals and teachers to petition for the temporary removal of guns; and made it easier to sue gun manufacturers.

Gun rights groups have filed lawsuits to reverse the first two laws.

Here 4 the Kids called the bills and similar legislation across the country “a Band-Aid to a gushing wound.”

Organizers said they hope the Denver sit-in will spur nationwide change, and they sent a draft executive order, similar to the one submitted to Polis, to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on May 31.

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