GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Bill allowing concealed carry in schools dies, handgun training pushes forward

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AURORA |  After more than eight hours of debate Wednesday afternoon, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee killed three Republican-sponsored gun bills on three party-line votes, with Aurora lawmakers, representatives Jovan Melton and Mike Weissman, voting to postpone the bills indefinitely.

One of the bills extended to business owners, managers and employees the right to use deadly force against an intruder. Another bill aimed to repeal the state’s 2013 ban on ammunition magazines containing more than 15 rounds.

But the measure that took up more than half the testimony time was HB17-1036, a bill that would have allowed those with concealed carry permits to have their handguns on public school grounds. Sponsored by Republican representatives Patrick Neville, Kim Ransom and Tim Neville, the bill met opposition from the six Democratic members of the house committee, including Weissman and Melton.

“School safety deserves attention, which is why I am glad Aurora voters approved the 2016 school bond question that included funding for building security upgrades around the district,” Weissman said in a statement prior to the hearing. “My concern with HB-1036 is that the presence of additional firearms in our schools would make them less, not more safe.”

The Aurora Education Association, the union which represents Aurora Public Schools employees, also did not support this measure.

“We cannot be the police inside the school,” said Amy Nichols, the president of AEA. “What happens if a kid gets a hold of one of those guns?”

Ransom, a former educator, said during the hearing she would have liked the option to carry when she was a teacher.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said the representative for House District 44 in Douglas County. “I’m a former teacher. I would want to be able to protect my students.”

But this isn’t the last of the legislation dealing with guns in schools.

SB17-005, a bill allowing county sheriffs to provide handgun safety training to any public school employee who has a concealed carry permit, passed on a party-line vote in the Senate earlier this week.

Upon completion of training and after meeting certain requirements, school district employees would then be allowed to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds, overturning a 2003 piece of legislation that prohibited this.

“Right now teachers are inundated with professional development on things they actually do, things they teach, their expertise. They’re trained on those things,” Nichols said. “That’s what they should be trained on — not on how to carry and use a gun. That is ridiculous.”

Nichols said if rural areas are worried about slow response times in the event of a shooting or other emergency, they should consider assembling community task forces similar to volunteer firefighters. But the answer was not to arm teachers, she said.

“Teachers are teachers because they want to help students learn, they want to help students be good thinkers, they want to help students grow,” she said. “They should not also be the police of the building. That’s not appropriate, that’s not healthy, that’s not what they’re there to do on the behalf of students.”