APTOPIX Texas School Shooting

A woman cries Tuesday, May 24, 2022, as she leaves the Uvalde Civic Center. At least 14 students and 1 teacher were killed will a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, according to Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott.

Colorado officials and candidates for statewide and federal office reacted Tuesday with anguish and outrage following an attack by an 18-year-old gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left at least 22 dead, including 19 children. The gunman was killed by law enforcement, authorities said.

Amid calls for prayers and action, some state leaders noted that Coloradans are all too familiar with mass shootings, from the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 to the shooting last spring at a Boulder King Soopers, with too many to count in between.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday was the deadliest at a U.S. school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago.

Gov. Jared Polis ordered that flags in Colorado be immediately lowered to half-staff until sunset on Saturday as a mark of respect for the victims of the shooting.

In a statement issued before the extent of the massacre was known, the Boulder Democrat contrasted the crushing grief in the Texas town with the joy he saw on faces at an elementary school earlier in the day in Montezuma County in the southwest corner of the state.

“This morning I visited Mancos Elementary School and saw the joy on the faces of students and teachers in their last week of school as they looked forward to new adventures this summer and next school year," Polis said.

"Now fourteen students and a teacher at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas had their joy ended forever from a cold blooded attack, and their parents, friends and families won’t ever hold them in their arms again or be able to watch them grow."

Added Polis: "Colorado’s hearts are heavy for our friends in Texas and join in showing love for the families and community affected.”

Heidi Ganahl, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, tweeted: "My heart aches for the senseless pain we see too much of. I pray we can all figure this out — together. Our kids are depending on us. Covering the families of the victims and the Uvalde community with prayer and love, and determination to do things differently. #PrayForTexas."

The state's two senators referenced last week's racist shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in separate statements. Both Democrats said that it was time to act to protect Americans from the plague of gun violence.

In a statement on Twitter, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said: "14 kids and a teacher killed in Texas today. 10 Black Americans killed in New York 10 days ago. This horrific gun violence is uniquely American. We cannot become numb to it. We need to act and #EndGunViolence now."

"As a parent, I weep. Our children deserve so much better than this nightmare," U.S. Sen, John Hickenlooper tweeted. "We need to protect our future from this senseless violence."

In a statement released hours later, Hickenlooper recounted a grim toll.

“We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting where 70 people were injured and 12 murdered on an ordinary night at the movies," he said. "One year ago, 10 more Coloradans were killed while shopping for groceries. A white supremacist targeted another supermarket just days ago in Buffalo, New York. And today, children slaughtered in Texas.

“How many shootings are enough before we stop terrorizing our children and our families?”

Joe O'Dea, a Republican running for the nomination to challenge Bennet, tweeted, "The tragic school shooting in Uvalde is heartbreaking. Pure evil. I am praying for the families of the victims."

"My heart breaks knowing ANOTHER community is dealing with a tragic shooting. We can’t become numb to this violence. We must act to protect our communities and our children," U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, tweeted. "Thoughts and prayers are not enough."

In a later tweet, she added: "We have to take action now to end these horrific school shootings. We have to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and we need universal background checks now.

"I will not be silenced on this."

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat who represents Boulder in the House, said he was heartbroken and frustrated.

"Children. Innocent children," he tweeted. "Devastating and horrific. I’m heartbroken for the families of those who lost their loved ones, And frustrated beyond words at the refusal of lawmakers to protect our kids from harm. Praying for the people of Texas."

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Centennial Democrat who represents the communities surrounding the site of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, said it's up to officials to do something about the mass shootings.

"Thoughts and prayers will not bring these children back," Crow tweeted. "And it clearly won’t stop the next shooting. It never has. This is a policy problem. If you’re an elected official who won’t join me to fix this, sit down and shut up."

Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, an outspoken gun-rights advocate and owner of a firearms-themed restaurant in Rifle, called for Americans to turn to God.

"My heart goes out to the friends and families of the 15 dead in Uvalde, Texas," she tweeted. "The loss of innocent life breaks my heart. It is in times like these that we should, as individuals, communities, and as a nation, turn to God for comfort and healing."

Her GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, told Colorado Politics in a statement that he was praying for the victims and survivors.

“What happened today was a sickening and heartbreaking tragedy," Coram said via text message. "Praying tonight for the Uvalde community and especially for the families lives that will never be the same. It is devastating when innocent children are the victims of senseless acts of violence.”

Adam Frisch, one of the Democrats running in a primary in the congressional district Boebert represents, said on Twitter that he and his wife were "horrified, outraged, and saddened beyond belief" as the news emerged from Uvalde.

"When Covid started, I earned my substitute teacher license. My focus was PreK-4," Frisch said in another tweet. "The highlight of every day was watching parents at day’s end meet their kids with shared smiling faces. I am just shattered 14 *more* families will never do that again-ever."

Another Democrat vying for Boebert's 3rd Congressional District seat, Alex Walker, called the Republican incumbent "the f-----problem" in a tweet.

"School shooting threats have risen 998% in 10 years, so no, this is not going to get better, and yes, your vote in the midterms can save lives," Walker said in a later tweet.

Democrat Sol Sandoval, the Pueblo community activist running in the 3rd CD primary, said "commonsense gun laws" and mutual respect are key.

"As a mother, I am heartsick," she tweeted. "We need commonsense gun laws. And we need to stop with the hate and radicalization. How we talk about each other matters."

The candidates in Colorado's two open, competitive congressional districts split along party lines, with the Democrats calling for legislative responses to control gun violence and the Republicans calling it a crisis of mental health and faith. One GOP congressional candidate said the way to protect schoolchildren is to arm more gunmen.

Running in the state's new 8th Congressional District, which stretches from suburbs north of Denver to Greeley, presumptive Democratic nominee state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton pediatrician, said on Twitter that "sensible federal gun violence prevention legislation" was needed to address shootings like the one that took place at the Texas school.

"School should be a place of safety. But 14 little kids — just like the kids I treat in clinic every day — just lost their lives trying to learn," Caraveo tweeted. "My heart is broken for their families. The violence must stop. We need sensible federal gun violence prevention legislation, now."

The four Republicans running in a June primary for the seat had different reactions, with one saying legislation aimed at guns won't accomplish anything and the others invoking the power of prayer.

“These shootings are horrific and heartbreaking in ways the mind cannot even begin to grasp," Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann said in a text message. "There is a mental health crisis in our youth that deserves the absolute focus of leaders in every community and at all levels of government. One more gun law won’t protect our communities or our kids. Too many of our children are not well, and we must act.”

Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine posted a brief message to Facebook: "Praying for Uvalde and our nation."

State Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, a Brighton Republican, urged her Facebook followers to pray.

"Please stop what you are doing and say a prayer for the families of victims of the school shooting at the elementary school in Texas," Kirkmeyer wrote.

 Tyler Allcorn, an Army Special Forces veteran who lives in Arvada, said on Twitter that he and his wife were "heartbroken for the community" where the massacre took place.

"True evil exists in our world and those who hurt children are truly evil," he said. "The victims and their families will be in our prayers today and for a very long time."

In the Jefferson County-based 7th Congressional District, state Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said in a statement that she was "heartbroken" for the families whose children wouldn't be coming home after "yet another mass shooting."

"We need action, and in Congress I’ll fight for federal laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and make sure law enforcement has the tools and intelligence to stop these tragedies before they happen again," Pettersen said. "Our kids should be safe at school, the grocery store, the movie theatre and places of worship. My heart and my resolve are with those who lost someone unnecessarily today.”

The Republicans running in the district all said mental health issues were to blame for the shooting. 

Tim Reichert, a Golden economist, said in a statement to Colorado Politics that he and his wife were praying for the families of the children who were killed in the shooting.

"We cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation these families are feeling right now. Our thoughts and gratitude are also with the first responders," Reichert said. "We must foster a society in which our objective is human flourishing. We must ensure our children receive the mental health help they need, and come to understand and respect their own dignity as well as the dignity of others."

Pine Republican Erik Aadland, a former oil and gas executive, called the day's events a "heartbreaking tragedy" and said his "deepest sympathy and prayers" went out to students and their families in text message delivered via a campaign aide.

"Congress should take immediate steps to secure the Southern border against illicit firearms and other contraband streaming across it via the cartels and other bad actors," Aadland said, adding, "At every level, we must also take steps to address the mental sickness at the root of these tragic shootings."

Aadland's spokeswoman, Lydia Blaha, said she didn't think the candidate meant to suggest that the gun or guns used in the attack on the elementary school were "illicit."

Asked whether Aadland thought Congress had a role helping prevent mass shootings, Blaha responded: "Pass legislation which focuses on the root causes of mental health illness.  Erik is well positioned to champion this legislation with his real world and academic experience in addressing mental illness."

"This is so tragic and I feel terrible for the loss of life and these poor families," said Laurel Imer, a former legislative candiate, in a lengthy statement, adding that she was praying for them.

"The only way to protect our children from an armed gunman is with an armed gunman. These shooters pick these locations because they know it’s a gun-free zone. Very few elementary schools have security on campus. And, for the ones that do, the security personnel are unarmed and ineffective. You might as well have a mother with a broom," she said.

Imer maintained that "mental health is the issue, not guns."

"While guns may be the tool, the intent to harm and commit murder has nothing to do with the gun," she said. Congress, she added, must do something to protect students but "is so afraid of political backlash. Bottom line, the gun will be blamed. It’s not the gun’s fault. If you have an intent to murder in your heart, you will use any means you can access."

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