People who have been touched by gun violence and several political candidates spoke to about 200 people gathered Sunday at Buckley Park for a rally against gun violence and to advocate for safe gun practices.
“My memory, which I can’t get over, is the sound of gunfire followed immediately by the screaming of students,” said Dale Kramer, a special education teacher at Aztec High School who spoke about the Dec. 7, 2017, shooting at the school.
Every day, he said, is difficult living with the memory. “It’s a nightmare that there are no words to describe,” he said.
Kramer, who has served as a law enforcement official, said he is against arming teachers – noting that even highly trained soldiers hit only a fraction of their targets.
“I don’t want a weapon in my classroom and I’m highly trained,” he said.
“No child should have access to a loaded gun,” Dr. Julie Pysklo told the crowd, describing the loss of her son three years ago to a suicide after he gained access to a gun while at his father’s house. He had gotten in trouble for staying up to 3 a.m., and after everyone had left, he used the gun on himself.
Pysklo said suicides are three times more likely in a home where a gun is available. Her medical partner, Dr Sarah Goodpastor, said children are particularly vulnerable to making bad impulsive decisions.
“Children’s prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain governing inhibition, planning, understanding consequences – isn’t developed enough yet,” she said.
Goodpastor, a member of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, helped organize the rally.
Her group advocates for closing loopholes in background checks that allow minors and dangerous people to get firearms. The group also promotes gun-safety and gun-storage protocols and advocates for some limits on how loaded guns are carried and used in public.
Goodpastor said 38,658 Americans died from gun violence in 2016, two-thirds from suicide and the remaining one-third were homicides, mostly stemming from urban violence.
Less than 3 percent of deaths came in mass shootings, she said.
Karl Hanlon, a Carbondale Democrat running for the U.S. Congressional District 3 seat currently held by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said in talking with his daughter about gun violence at schools, he learned that she already knew where every exit was in each of her classes, what items she could put in front of a door to bar access and what she could use as a potential weapon.
“It’s hard to text your children at the end of the school day to see if they are OK,” Hanlon said.