DENVER (KDVR) — Many of the more than 500 people who signed up to testify for or against Colorado’s so-called “assault weapons” ban have been directly impacted by gun violence.
“I’ve seen the blood of my classmates outside of school. That’s traumatic. It’s traumatic to see the crime scene where a classmate you were talking to five minutes ago is now in a hospital bed with a bullet in his head,” East High School student Grant Cramer said.
School shooting survivors give input
Cramer and two of his freshman classmates testified in support of a bill meant to ban certain firearms in Colorado.
“We have gone through so much as a school community at East and as a DPS (Denver Public Schools community as well. I’ve lost three classmates in the span of one school year, but I lost another this time last year, and it’s absurd,” East High School student Norah Krause said.
“Listening to the testimony of people who were for the bill, obviously some of it was very heart-wrenching. People have some very intense personal experiences with gun violence,” Brendan Bialy said.
He waited on Zoom for about eight hours Wednesday for his chance to speak to lawmakers because he said he feels like he has a unique perspective.
“As the testimony of a lot of people showed, especially for the assault weapons ban bill, talked a lot about many of them were high school students at one point who knew students, friends, acquaintances who were shot either through school shootings or other violent altercations. And as much as that is totally valid, I think there are just as many people who oppose that bill who have similar experiences,” he said.
Bialy was a student at STEM School Highland Ranch in 2019 when two armed students entered the school and started shooting.
“We took (the shooter) to the floor,” Bialy said. “When (the shooter) forced the pistol back towards our heads and we agreed to pry the pistol from his right hand.”
Bialy is credited with disarming the gunman. Eight students were injured and one student, Kendrick Castillo, was killed.
Student: STEM shooting defined gun stance
He said the shooting at his school is what defined his stance on guns.
“That’s a really good question, how I could be pro-gun even despite going through something like that, witnessing what can be done with a firearm in pure evil intent,” Bialy said.
According to Bialy, his knowledge and comfort around firearms kept the rest of his classmates safe.
“The shock of that gun was gone. The taboo was gone. And it also allowed me to take safe possession of the shooter’s gun,” he said.
He said while it is difficult to speculate, he believes he would still oppose an assault weapons ban had the armed students at STEM used long guns instead of handguns.
“I’m not going to pretend and say things wouldn’t have been different,” he said. “I think if they both came in with assault weapons or long guns, I think ultimately it would have made Kendrick’s job, my job and Josh’s job easier getting them away from them.”
Still, so many others impacted by gun violence vehemently disagree.
“After a lot of the gun violence that we experienced at our school with the death of Luis Garcia and Austin Lyle, our deans being shot and my classmate RJ being shot, we want to see real change, because the truth is more guns don’t make people safer,” Cramer said.