By James Anderson, Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — A Colorado bill to allow some public school employees, including teachers, to carry handguns at work after getting safety training passed a Republican-led Senate committee on a party-line vote but faces tough prospects in the Democrat-led House.
Dozens of teachers and gun control advocates squared off against gun rights activists in testimony before the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, which sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration.
The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker and Republican House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock. It would allow individual school districts to decide whether district employees who are concealed-carry permit holders could undergo training to carry on campus. Colorado’s elected sheriffs would coordinate that training.
Currently, only school resource officers, many of them active-duty police officers or hired private security guards, can carry a weapon at Colorado public schools. Holbert said his bill seeks to add training requirements for anyone, including existing private security. Concealed carry is legal at college campuses in Colorado.
Colorado’s 178 school districts could decide if and how many employees could get training. Holbert and others said it was a common-sense measure to increase school security, especially for rural districts whose schools sometimes are lengthy distances from first responders. The names of those allowed to carry at school would be protected from open-records laws.
The County Sheriffs of Colorado, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and other groups support the bill.
“Turn criminal safe zones, which is what (public schools) are now, into dangerous zones for criminals,” urged Dudley Brown of the gun owners’ group.
Opponents included several teachers, the Colorado PTA and two relatives of Mary Sherlock, a school psychologist slain in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. They argued the bill was a way to introduce more guns into schools — and that having them there won’t prevent school shootings.
In December, the rural Hanover School District 28 board voted to allow trained school employees to volunteer to be armed on the job. The district currently shares an armed school resource officer with four other school districts.