Denver shooting highlights failures of CO gun laws, criminal justice system

The Democratic majority in Colorado’s legislature is considering an avalanche of gun control measures this year, including a ban on so-called assault weapons, raising the age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21, waiting periods on gun sales, and expanding the state’s “red flag” law, just to name a few. Not only are these bills directed at the state’s legal gun owners, some Democrats are adding injury to insult by pushing legislation that would prevent police from making arrests when the suspected offense is a misdemeanor.


This tough-on-gun-owners/soft-on-crime approach isn’t a new development in the state. Since 2013 Colorado Democrats have passed a number of gun control measures like “universal” background checks, a ban on “large capacity” magazines, repealing the state’s firearm preemption law, and implementing Extreme Risk Protection Orders. All the while violent crime has continued to increase in many parts of the state, particular in Denver and suburbs like Aurora, and juvenile crime is increasing even faster than overall crime rates.

These failures were evident on Wednesday, when a 17-year-old on probation for illegally possessing a gun and one of those “large capacity” magazines shot and wounded two staffers at Denver’s East High School who were required to pat down the student every morning before he was allowed to enter the school.

Austin Lyle, 17, allegedly shot Eric Sinclair, dean of culture, and Jerald Mason, coordinator in restorative practice, at East High School in DenverColorado, on Wednesday morning.

Denver Police said that the shooting unfolded just before 10am while Lyle was undergoing a daily weapons search at the school.

During the search, staff members located a handgun and Lyle allegedly opened fire, striking the two faculty members before fleeing the scene.

Following an hours-long manhunt to track down the student, Lyle’s body was discovered in a wooded area.

Now, the teenager’s past brushes with the law have come to light, revealing that he was still on probation for possession of a ghost gun at the time of Wednesday’s shooting.

Law enforcement sources told CBS Colorado that the 17-year-old had been arrested back in 2021 for possession of a ghost gun and a high capacity magazine.

His arrest came when he was a student at Overland High School and some fellow students reported photos on social media showing Lyle with a gun, the sources said.

A search of the teenager’s home then uncovered the ghost gun and magazine. He was later expelled from the school and began attending East High School.


Even though it was already against the law for the teen to possess a firearm when he was busted back in 2021 there were almost no consequences for his illegal activity. Yes, he was expelled from his high school, but after receiving probation for that offense he was allowed to enroll at East High under several conditions, including those daily patdowns.

Colorado lawmakers certainly weren’t talking up the possibility of teenagers getting off scot-free if they were caught with a “large capacity” magazine when they approved their ban in 2013, and when the Denver City Council imposed its own local ban on “ghost guns” in 2022 they made it sound like it would be some valuable public safety tool; ignoring the fact that when teens are found in illegal possession of a firearm they’re apparently given a slap on the wrist before being sent on their way.

No, for as much as anti-gun politicians talk about the supposed need for all these new gun laws, once they’re on the books most of them are completely uninterested in how those laws are enforced in practice. In fact, their failures are generally used as an excuse to call for even more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, which is exactly what we’re seeing in Colorado right now. Ten years of continually adding to the state’s gun control laws hasn’t made Colorado a safer place, and as long as the Democratic majority in Denver keeps cracking down on legal gun owners while excusing away criminal activity this untenable reality is going to remain the status quo.


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