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Photos of guns found in schools depict numerous loaded semi-automatic pistols, some with extra magazines

Four large Denver-area school districts released the pictures under Colorado open records laws.

DENVER — The pictures are shocking – semi-automatic handguns, most of them fully loaded, some with high-capacity magazines.

All depict weapons confiscated in four large Denver-area school districts since the start of the 2021-22 academic year, and they paint a picture of the kinds of guns that kids are bringing to campus. Many look like weapons that would be carried by a police officer.

The photos were obtained by 9Wants to Know under Colorado’s open records laws.

The images were no surprise to Jessie Suchinsky or Erika Righter, two members of a group called Here 4 The Kids, which is dedicated to doing something about gun violence.

“We’re all in some pretty hard denial about what’s happening,” Suchinsky told 9NEWS. “I think we need to get real about where we are in the world in terms of violence – and gun violence specifically, and how that’s impacting our daily lives and our children’s daily lives.”

Although the group’s focus is not only on schools, both women said it was important to be honest about what’s actually happening on campuses.

“If we don’t shed light on it, and actually address it, and call a thing a thing, we’re just creating more danger for these kids,” Righter said. “I would just say stop kidding ourselves. Stop thinking, it’s not my school, it’s not my kid, it’s not my community. It’s all of us.”

Following a shooting March 22 at East High that left two deans wounded, 9Wants to Know requested photographs of all the guns confiscated in Denver Public Schools (DPS) since the start of the 2020-21 academic year.

DPS, the state’s largest district, refused to provide any of the images, contending, among other things, that releasing them would serve only “to undermine confidence in Denver Public Schools and could create panic, confusion, and/or concern amongst our students, families and the community as a whole.”

At the same time, 9Wants to Know made similar requests of the next five largest districts – Jeffco Public Schools, the Douglas County School District, Cherry Creek Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

Officials with the Douglas County district said they had no photos, but the other four districts all had them and provided them – pictures of 44 guns in all, as well as photos of other weapons, mostly knives.

Asked what else schools should be doing, Righter said that “this is a larger issue than that,” contending that realities like poverty, violence, and racism play into what unfolds in the community.

“It’s really about addressing the systems that lead to why our kids are feeling like they need to weaponize themselves,” Righter said. “We’ve normalized violence, everywhere.”

Suchinsky agreed.

“I think the schools are a reflection of the broader society, right?” Suchinsky said. “So, what we’re seeing in the schools is not a school-specific issue. It’s an issue in our culture that we need to address at the systems level.”

The bottom line for her?

“I don’t really believe that my kids are safe in school anymore,” Suchinsky said. “I don’t know who does. And I’m kind of tired of being told that they are because of more staff on the ground, or metal detectors, or whatever. That’s not going to fix it.”

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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