Armed teachers in Colorado classrooms? Some are already training

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A teacher aims at a target at a gun training for educators in a hangar at Centennial Airport, south of Denver.

Should teachers in Colorado be allowed to have guns in school? That question is almost certain to come up next year at the state Capitol as lawmakers address the issue of how to reduce violence in schools.

About 400 Colorado teachers spent a Saturday taking a gun safety class earlier this month in a hangar at Centennial Airport south of Denver. The event was sponsored by the Centennial Gun Club. And just last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he’s willing to consider the idea.

“I’m certainly open to that discussion," Hickenlooper told Denver's CBS affiliate. "The ability of people to defend themselves in a world that increasingly looks chaotic. There’s not a parent in this state that doesn’t want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to make their kids safer."

At the Nov. 8 gun training, teachers said they wanted to learn more about guns because they feared for the safety of their students in the wake of shootings in Colorado and elsewhere across the country.

"It's really hard working in a school when you see all of the school shootings," said Katie Sorden, who works for the Adams 12 school district. "And it's very nerve wracking knowing that the kids look up to you, they look to you for protection, and then in a time of need, you can't protect them."

Sorden said the training helped her learn the basics about guns and gun safety, like the proper way to take a gun out of a holster. She says while her father and boyfriend know how to use guns, she has little experience with them.

Another school worker at the training, a teacher who asked to remain anonymous, said she was there because she wants to do anything she can to protect her students.

"As a teacher, you deal with kids on a daily basis...and they kind of become like your own children," she said. "And having my own children, you really have that kind of parental instinct around them as well, and anything you can do really means [a lot]."

Teacher in classColorado Public Radio reached out to teachers on our Public Insight Network to get their views on the issue.

Kevin Slick, a teacher at Erie Elementary School, said he's spent a lot of time shooting for sport. But carrying a gun doesn't make things safer, he said.

"It seems like most of the evidence you know makes it... more likely [that] it might get used in the wrong way or somebody uses it accidentally or it goes off in an argument or something like that," Slick said.

Coni Sanders, the daughter of teacher Dave Sanders, who was killed at Columbine High School, was concerned that guns might not help during a live shooter situation. Sanders isn't a teacher. She works as a counselor with ex-offenders, and has talked to police officers about guns and gun training.

"I know a lot of police officers and even with their extensive level of training you know...accuracy is a concern," Sanders said. "

She says officers tell her that it is tough to be accurate and hit the person you're aiming for.

A Quinnipiac poll of Colorado voters found 50 percent of Coloradans support the idea of arming teachers and 45 percent oppose it. More men support the idea than women.