Protesters call for gun reform outside Sen. Gardner’s Fort Collins office one month after Parkland, Florida shooting

Samantha Ye

Protesters stand outside of Sen. Cory Gardner’s office during a 17 minute silence to honor the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Fla. shooting last month. A crowd gathered, with children in attendance. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

One month after a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., around 50 demonstrators gathered outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Colo.) office Wednesday to honor the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and advocate for gun reform.

The demonstration was part of the #Enough! National School Walkouts, hosted by the Women’s March Youth Empower.

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Protesters came with signs denouncing the National Rifle Association and calling for gun reform and legislative action. They stood for 17 minutes of silence in respect to the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

Around the country, students and teachers walked out of classrooms for the protest. People from several Colorado schools participated, including Columbine High School where in 1999, two students shot and killed 13 people and wounded over 20 more.

Because Poudre School District is on spring break, the Fort Collins protest did not have the walkout aspect, but several protesters brought their children.

a stop sign with a paper gun attached.
“17 minutes for 17 lives,” said Arloa Ellerton a Fort Collins resident and protestor. The protest outside the senator’s office included 17 minutes of silence to honor the lives lost in the Parkland shooting and to encourage gun law reform. (Sarah Ehrlich| Collegian)

One such community member was Marc Fortney who brought his sons, second grader Sky and fourth grader Dakota.

“These are my kids,” Fortney said. “I don’t want them to get murdered or shot in school.”

Fortney said he supported dismantling all gun factories or at least the automatic gun factories.

Rose Winker, who volunteers at Poudre High School, said she came to the protest to advocate for the students.

“It concerns me … for the kids at the high schools because they’re walking down the halls or going to class to class or even lunch—they aren’t safe,” Winker said. “We only have one community (resource) officer there for over 1000 kids. … That scares the heck out of me.”

After the protest ended, most of the attendees went into Gardner’s office to leave their comments.

“The point is, we all need to stand strong and make our voices heard and not give up and be relentless,” said Arloa Ellertson, one of the demonstrators.

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Ellertson said she was appalled that Sen. Gardner received money from the NRA.

Gardner has directly received $5,950from the NRA since 2012, according to an article from the Washington Post.

When including the amount of money the NRA has spent on behalf of candidates, the NRA has spent approximately $3.88 million on Gardner, making him number five in the top 10 career recipients of NRA funding, according to Fortune. Money spent on behalf of candidates, for items such as campaign ads, comes from the NRA’s PACs and directly from the NRA’s 501(c)(4) social welfare unit.

Fortune’s figures subtract independent expenditures — funds used for or against a candidate but not spent in cooperation, consultation or concert with the candidate — that were spent for and against opponents if the candidate did not end up competing in a general election.

Ellerton said she was disappointed that the staff in Gardner’s office and tax and accounting office did not seem aware the protest was part of a national event. The tax and accounting office had called Gardner’s office with concerns that the protest might affect their business which is busy during tax season

protestors hold signs. one reads "remember the 17"
Community members Brandy Smith, Megan Smith and Alisa Guy show their support for gun law reform with signs. (Sarah Ehrlich| Collegian)

“(Their lack of knowledge) has encouraged people to be more vocal and more determined,” Ellertson said.

Protesters left comments urging Gardner to vote against arming teachers with guns, raising the minimum age to buy assault weapons if not banning them altogether, and implementing universal background checks.

“We’re all here today to ask Gardner to stand with his constituents, not the NRA,” said Shelly Wells, a demonstrator and local teacher.

Wells said it concerns her that NRA campaign funding might drive Gardner’s decisions.

“We just want him to consider some common sense gun laws to keep students and teachers safe,” said Krista Campbell, another demonstrator.

Both Wells and Campbell said they are local teachers who oppose arming teachers with guns.

“We don’t want that responsibility,” Wells said. “We want (schools) to be a safe haven from guns.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information about the amount of funding Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has received from the National Rifle Association.

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.