Guns in Schools Bill Dies in Committee

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State lawmakers Monday voted down a bill that would have given school districts the power to allow their teachers to carry weapons on campus. CPR's Megan Verlee reports that this was the first of many gun bills to be debated this session.

Reporter Megan Verlee: The Republican lawmakers who brought the bill said it would give teachers a chance to fight back during a mass shooting and potentially deter attackers from targeting schools in the first place. Greeley teacher Bethany Christainsen told the Senate Committee she would take a bullet for her students, or fire one.

Bethany Christiansen: "As it is right now, we are sitting ducks. If somebody comes into my school and has a gun, I want to be able to defend my students."

Reporter: However, Colorado's largest teacher's union testified that a 'resounding' number of its members ranked arming staff as the least effective route to preventing school violence in a recent survey. The tiny rural Lone Star School District in far northeastern Colorado doesn't share that opinion, according to parent and school volunteer Jeremy Weathers.

Jeremy Weathers: "Our school district nearly unanimously supports this bill. We’ve had teachers volunteer to take CCW [Carrying a Concealed Weapon] classes and we’ve even had parents volunteer to pay for any additional training that would be necessary for any of those teachers."

Reporter: Democratic Senator Jessie Ulibarri debated with with bill sponsor Ted Harvey over the danger of teachers taking on a shooter.

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri [D-Sherrelwood]: “And what I get concerned about is going from direct fire of 40 rounds to crossfire of 100 rounds. That does sound more concerning for my son’s safety and his constitutional right to life.”

Sen. Ted Harvey [R-Highlands Ranch]: “And you can go to your school board and voice that.”

Reporter: That’s because the bill would have let school districts decide whether to adopt the policy. In the end, the bill failed on a party line vote. Earlier in the day, supporters of stricter gun regulations rallied at the Capitol, to show their support for potential gun bills and criticize Harvey's legislation. Afterward, Pastor Mark Hill said he’s been talking with his congregation about possible gun control policies.

Rev. Mark Hill: "I‘m hoping to see something that’s fair and plausible. This is really a tough issue and there’s so many intricate parts to it."

Reporter: Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce several gun control measures in the next week or so. Their bills are likely to expand background checks to all gun purchases, and charge buyers a fee for those checks. They may also try to ban high capacity ammunition magazines.

[Photo: CPR/MVerlee]