Students from East High School and West High School call for gun control measures to be considered by state lawmakers Thursday, March 23, 2023, during a rally outside the State Capitol in Denver. A shooting left two administrators injured at East High School on Wednesday, one of a series of gun-related events at the school in the past six weeks. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Lots of the fallout from the Denver East High School shooting tragedy is debatable. There is, however, no compelling reason to allow any student who’s been tabbed as a gun threat anywhere near a traditional public school.

In what appears to have been a textbook case of why Colorado has a Red Flag Law — to ensure people deemed dangerous around guns aren’t around any guns — 17-year-old Austin Lyle shot two East High School administrators as they were patting him down during a gun check — at the school.

The backstory of how a 17-year-old boy found himself patted down daily at the school before he could go inside has been made public only because reporters like Allison Sherry of Colorado Public Radio persuaded officials, off the record, to piece together Lyle’s life before he shot two school administrators and then killed himself miles away in the mountains.

The lack of transparency surrounding the hundreds of shootings in Aurora and Denver each year is another problem all by itself, for another time.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of anxious, and sometimes petrified, parents and students across the state want to know which students at their own schools have pasts similar to Lyle’s and get patted down at school, or don’t.

At the same time, state lawmakers and school officials are champing at the bit to act to prevent similar school shootings at a time when it seems that everyone is powerless to prevent any kind of shooting.

Lyle’s life was heartbreaking, as recollected by sources talking to Sherry at Colorado Public Radio.

“Lyle’s legal trouble with guns started with a 2021 tip to the Safe2Tell hotline forwarded to Overland High School in the Cherry Creek School District,” Sherry wrote for Denverite, a part of Colorado Public Radio. “It said he had posted a Snapchat image of himself holding a gun surrounded by what was described as a large amount of ammunition.”

I can’t imagine any parent anywhere in Colorado who isn’t horrified at the thought of their child going to school with someone who posts social media pictures like that.

Police essentially got nowhere in questioning Lyle, according to the story. They let him go but did call his mother, who found a gun in Lyle’s bedroom and turned it over to police.

It was, as told to Sherry, an assault-style rifle with a silencer and a 30-round magazine.

“A law enforcement source who spoke to CPR News called it a so-called ghost gun, an untraceable weapon usually purchased in kits that people can put together at home,” Sherry wrote. “It is unknown where Lyle got the gun, or if he assembled it himself.”

He was convicted in Arapahoe County juvenile court, reportedly, of possessing the gun and was expelled from Overland.

He moved to Florida with family, then back to Denver, failing a diversion program that required no further gun trouble, and he was placed on probation, according to Sherry’s report.

And he ended up at East High School, where he would be allowed to go if he succumbed to daily pat downs.

You can see the balancing act here.

He’s a young kid whose life could easily be tanked for good by not being able to backtrack over his dangerously stupid plunge into American ammophilia.

As a society and community, do we give kids like Lyle a second chance and, without a serious commitment to mental health and observation, send them back into the mainstream, risking what actually happened?

It’s very easy at this point to say, oh hell no. Asking the question, “what could go wrong?” was answered plainly last week when Lyle shot and wounded the school administrators charged with checking him daily for guns, and then driving into the mountains to kill himself.

In a far better world, children like Lyle and adults like Congressperson Lauren Boebert would understand that firearms are dangerous devices to be handled as such. They’re not toys or props used in photos to salve some deep-seated psychological problem or strap on as adornments and virtue signals to appeal to political fans who share a deep-seated psychological problem.

It’s far too late for that. Some state lawmakers from the Western Slope are threatening outright civil war over attempts to keep military arms out of the hands of people, many just like Lyle.

Nope. The catalog of mail-order firepower is out of the bag and into the hands disturbed children and adults.

The New York Times last week reported that the most likely source of illegal guns comes from parked cars. That’s right, local folks run out and get gats to protect themselves from other people who run out and get gats, store them under the driver’s seat or in the glove box, providing even the most tepid thief a free — often loaded — gun, along with whatever loose change and breath mints they can find in the car console.

Just as unnerving is a Kaiser Health News report this week revealing that one in four Colorado teens are confident they can get their hands on a loaded gun in hours.

So what say you, Colorado? Send kids like Lyle back to school, as long as they agree to pat downs on the playground and don’t shoot anyone in the process?

I would say no. Not at my kid’s school.

It’s hard to tell just how many of these “situations” there are anywhere in the metroplex. Denver and Aurora area schools won’t say how many “safety plan” students they deal with, or which of them involve guns or knives or tactical nukes.

That would violate student privacy, they say.

It’s easy to understand how getting caught sneaking a loaded gun into school, or threatening to do it, would tarnish someone’s reputation.

Pat downs wont’ cut it.  Kids who do something this dangerous must be drawn into intensive mental health treatment, probably a world deep in social services.

But right now, schools and courts are counting on the equivalent of thoughts and prayers for kids like Lyle to never do what he did.

Until the police, the schools and the courts can make it clear that kids like Lyle are either properly treated for their issues with ammo and guns, and cured of it, sending them back into the mainstream school community is a recipe for just what happened, or even worse.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or



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  1. Dave, I couldn’t agree more. I’m an old man now, but when I learned how to handle a gun I took a pop-gun with me for a year out to “hunt” squirrels and rabbits with my dad or grandpa in Iowa. I know we don’t hit kids anymore, but my dad cuffed me upside the head when he found me accidentally pointing the gun at someone or handling it recklessly. Trust me, it didn’t take long to build respect for the power of a gun. I never used a gun for anything other than hunting and practicing to hunt. Today people hunt a lot less, but we have more guns. I haven’t hunted in 25 years and don’t own a gun anymore. I can’t understand people who own a gun for protection. Protection from what? By the time a person gets hold of a gun and thinks about shooting a human being, their dead. Criminals don’t worry about it – they shoot to kill and think about it later. I believed the old CDC research years ago that stated you were 60% more likely to die from gun violence if you owned a gun. A kid that is already into guns and posts the evidence on social media should be far away from a school either incarcerated or getting mental health care. Why flirt with disaster? We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can’t confront his threats head on and find a solution for the good of society. No mollycoddling for a known threat – kids lives are at stake!

  2. This disclosure was one of those “You’ve got to be kidding!” moments. There has to be a better way to help those with mental health issues without putting others at an obvious possibility of risk to their lives.

  3. Schools should be the centers of communities: open from 5 am to 9 pm, with a full range of ‘safety net’ services and trained professionals and fun, engaging activities.

    Many parents need to look at how they teach their children to view school. Too many kids come to school with adversarial attitudes toward teachers and administrators. Parents need to view teachers as partners in the development of their children. Too often parents do not show respect for teachers or administrators or school policy.

    Often this is because of a major problem in our society: entitlement.’How dare the school say that my little Johnny is acting up? Don’t they see how special he is? Those rules can’t apply to him.’

    Solutions to gun violence are multifaceted, respect for schools and their personnel is a critical piece.

  4. I agree that gun-toting teens should not be in regular schools but do we want them running around on streets or in neighborhoods once they are removed from school? There is no place safe from a young person who has access and believes a gun is the answer.

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