DENVER — Sen. Ted Harvey isn’t sponsoring legislation that would allow Colorado school districts to arm teachers and staff members holding concealed weapons permits, as he did last year.
“It’s too personal,” he said Monday. “It’s just a little too close to home.”
Harvey isn’t the sponsor because of what happened last December when a student opened fire at Arapahoe High School, killing Claire Davis, 17, before turning his gun on himself.
“My son’s a student at Arapahoe,” he explained. “He was right across the hall from where the shooter was attacking in the library.”
The shooter, Karl Pierson, had four classroom numbers written in pen on his wrist, likely the rooms he planned to visit on his shooting spree. Harvey’s son’s classroom number was among them.
“It’s a horrible situation for our students and teachers to be in,” he said. “Thankfully, they had a school resource officer on campus who was armed with a gun and was able to confront the shooter in 80 seconds, forcing him to take his own life.”
That armed school resource officer, in Harvey’s view, was the difference between what happened at his son’s school and what happened a year earlier at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed when gunman Adam Lanza opened fire.
“When you have gun free zones, the only people who are able to have guns are those who want to break the law,” said Harvey. “The situation at Arapahoe High, where an armed officer was able to settle things quickly, validates our legislation.”
Democrats killed his bill a year ago and may do so again, even after what happened at Arapahoe High School.
The proposal is the same: allowing public school districts and charter school boards more flexibility to determine whether they want to allow teachers and staff members who hold concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into the classroom.
“Not every school can afford to pay a school resource office,” Harvey said. “This would allow those rural districts, places where a lot of people own guns and are trained with guns, to determine what’s best for their communities and their kids.”
But there are no indications that Democrats will allow the measure to move forward this year.
Senate President Morgan Carroll, when asked about the proposal Monday, said that there’s bipartisan support for putting state funding behind the “Safe 2 Tell” hotline.
“Data tells us that that anonymous reporting line prevents violent incidents,” she said. “I think we will be interested in any new data we can get and anything else we can learn about how to reduce violence and keep our kids safe.”
The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said that four of five members think arming teachers would be the least effective way to increase school safety.
“We think having more guidance counselors, training teachers to recognize the signs when a student is mentally distressed, those things will go further,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert.
“I think arming our educators with that type of education and training is more powerful — or one of the most powerful things we can do to keep our schools safe.”
Harvey said, unlike other GOP-sponsored bills aimed at repealing the gun laws Democrats passed last year, this measure isn’t purely about political messaging in an election year.
But, should Democrats scuttle it for a second straight year, Republicans will no doubt be reminding voters all about come November.
“Democrats need to wake up to what they’re creating in public schools across Colorado,” Harvey said.