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Durango High School students speak out against gun violence

Female-led group advocates for ban on semi-automatic rifles
Lucy Van Buskirk (left) and Rowan Lott (right) speak during the Women in Leadership Development rally against gun violence Wednesday afternoon at Buckley Park. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Durango High School students gathered in Buckley Park on Wednesday to speak up about gun violence and how it’s impacting them.

Led by the DHS group Women in Leadership Development, or WILD, chants rang from the street corner and student activists spoke about why the gun issue involves them more than ever.

DHS junior Lucy Van Buskirk and sophomore Rowan Lott led the charge.

“We just think that gun violence is such a pressing issue across the nation,” Van Buskirk said. “I mean, the amount of mass shootings we’ve had this year is insane. We’ve pretty much had two mass shootings a day, which is just crazy.”

The students focused on drawing a line in the sand when it comes to accessing weapons like AR-15s. Lott said it’s not about attacking firearms as a whole, nor is it about opposing the use of firearms for hunting outright.

“You can’t go hunting with them (AR-15s) because they destroy the animal,” Lott said.

This was a subject matter that became all too real for the students back in February when the Durango Police Department dispatch received a threat from someone who wanted to do harm to the high school.

The school district issued an emergency message about 9:50 a.m. Feb. 12 that read: “The La Plata County 911 Communications Center notified DHS that an unknown person reported that there was an armed subject approaching the campus. Durango Police Department immediately deployed law enforcement to secure the campus. Upon arrival, officers have not identified or located a threat but are still securing the scene.”

It was later discovered to be part of a series of fake calls that were made across the state. Durango School District 9-R followed up by sending out a message confirming that the threat was fake.

“As a student, it’s terrifying every time we hear about another school shooting, it’s happening all over the nation,” Lott said. “And we could go to school and that could be an actual pressing issue for us like last year in the winter.”

Before the 2022-23 school year, Durango School District 9-R increased safety measures by building secure vestibules at the entryway of schools in the district. The vestibules require a security clearance via school district credential or student identification to enter.

“Trying to protect the victim should never be your immediate solution,” Lott said.

She said the problem needed to be stopped at its source, which is to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

She said ideas like arming teachers, adding more school security or shelters to go to if a shooting occurs are just putting “Band-Aids” on the problem.

Van Buskirk said that she doesn’t understand why a law known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Act ended in 2004.

The 10-year federal law passed in August 1994, prohibiting the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms and certain magazines that were defined as large capacity.

Durango resident Stephanie Moran said it’s important for the 17-year-olds in the crowd to know they can register to vote, even though they are not yet 18. She also said people who have been convicted of domestic violence should not be allowed to own a gun.

“I have to have a license for my dog in this county and in this state. Think about that,” she said to the crowd. “The fact if you don’t have to have a license to own a gun but you have to have a license for a dog … we really need to rework the same for gun laws.”

tbrown@durangoherald.com



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