DENVER– Democrats killed a Senate bill to empower public school districts to decide whether to end “gun free” zones and let teachers and employees carry concealed weapons to protect children from another shooting tragedy.
Despite their claims of wanting more public discussion over how to prevent another Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, Democrat Senators Jesse Ulibarri of Commerce City, Lucia Guzman and Dr. Irene Aguilar, both of Denver, voted against Senate Bill 9 – preventing further debate on the Senate floor and potentially the House.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sens. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch and Scott Renfroe of Greeley, generated more than three hours of testimony – mostly from proponents – in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The measure would have allowed local schools districts to determine whether to have “gun free” zones, the current law, or set standards to allow teachers and personnel with permits and training to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.
“It’s a tragedy of what keeps happening over and over,” declared Renfroe of the school shootings since the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999 to the Connecticut incident in December.
“Frankly, it’s clear that gun-free zones don’t work,” he said.
Harveysaid the “gun free” zones send the message to perpetrators that public schools are vulnerable and unprotected. He described his wife, an educator, and two children as “sitting ducks” under the current law.
But, Ulibarri argued that there should be higher standards of training than just a concealed carry weapons permit – and voiced fear that his son would accidentally be killed in the crossfire between a gunman and school personnel.
Harvey equated Ulibarri’s argument to a choice of having children remain defenseless against an attacker or being protected by an armed teacher or school employee.
Repeatedly Harvey and Renfroe implored the committee to pass the bill so that local school boards have the power to make their own policies – instead of that right being denied by a few state senators.
“Why do you feel that you can deny them that opportunity?” asked Renfroe. “The only way you can is if you don’t trust them to make the decision for their district, for their children, for their teachers and their staff.”
Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) reminded the committee that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had asked that every option be considered to protect school children in December – and “put politics aside.”
“We put a very significant component on the table in such a way that it’s up to the school boards,” said Lundberg. “We have a moral duty to pass this bill.”
“This is the kind of debate we should be having,” said Senate Judicial Committee Chair Guzman.
However, Guzman voted against the bill because there was no testimony from the Denver Public School Board, on which she had served, the state Board of Education and other entities.
“We have not heard from (them) and they are not here today to put their bodies on the line,” said Guzman.
The bill failed on a party line vote, 3-2, with Republican Sens. Lundberg and Steve King of Grand Junction supporting the measure.
Explaining her opposition to the bill, Aguilar said, “When things are passionate it makes me a little nervous because I think that sometimes passion overcomes reason.”
An hour before the committee convened, about 60 anti-gun rights activists chanted and marched on the West side of the Capitol.
As the committee meeting was ending around 6:30 p.m., some 300 teachers and school employees were taking their first concealed carry weapons class sponsored by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in Broomfield.