Patrick Neville

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville sits with his family on the opening day of the 2017 state legislature at the Capitol in Denver on Jan. 11, 2017.

House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock tried and failed for a sixth straight year to make it legal to possess a gun on a school campus with a concealed-carry permit in Colorado.

House Bill 1040 failed on a 6-3 party-line vote before the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

Thursday night, the committee also killed House Bill 1099 to remove the state's 15-round limit on ammunition magazines by the same 6-3 vote.

The latter law, a ban on high-capacity magazines, was passed in 2013, the last time Democrats held majorities in the House, Senate and the governor's office, before reclaiming the Senate in 2018. The explosive issue then cost at least two Democrats their seats in recall elections that year.

The history Neville had in mind Tuesday goes back farther than his legislative service, to when he was sophomore at Columbine High School on the day of historic massacre that left classmates and a teacher dead in 1999.

His bill would end gun-free zones, which the Republican leader said are magnets for those looking to do harm on K-12 campuses.

"There's a reason I do this every year," Neville said. "I can think back to the time when I was a young 15-year-old kid, (at) Columbine High School. I can look back and can think of the horrors my fellow students and teachers and everything they faced, and we haven't changed.

"We haven't actually done anything to actually stop this from happening. We haven't taken real measures to prevent this from happening, and it happens again and again, we see it time and again."

Teachers and educational organizations lined up against his proposal Thursday, saying it would introduce dangerous weapons to an environment with children.

Neville said restricting guns hasn't curbed school violence, however. He cited Kendrick Castillo, who was killed as he charged the shooter at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch last year. Neville said such heroes will step forward when the time comes, if given the organizations. 

"In my situation at Columbine High School, friends of mine were forced to beg for the life just hoping someone would actually come and rescue them," Neville told the committee. 

Castillo's father, John, testified in favor of the bill and asked for a bipartisan solution to school safety at the statehouse. He spoke of wearing his son's clothes to keep his memory alive. He and his wife have no other children, Castillo said.

"We're not even willing to try," he said. "We're so convinced that one way is better than the other that we're not looking at options, and that's what's concerning to me."

He said that as he advocates for school safety, "I want people to open their eyes, and we can try things. if they don't work we can figure them out, but we're not even open to that dialogue."

Castillo asked the legislators to "open your heart and open your mind" to come up with solutions.

Jane Dougherty of Littleton had memories, too. She has been fighting legislation to put more guns in society since her sister, Mary Sherlach, a school psychologist, who was shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut with five other adults and 20 first-graders in 2012.

"Gun extremists want to put guns in our kids' schools, expecting our educators to stand up to an armed gunman, because cowardly Republican legislators won't stand up to the NRA and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners," she told the committee Thursday.

"Our teachers and administrators went into education to teach and nurture our children, not to become sharpshooters."

She said the gunman who killed her sister didn't target Sandy Hook because of a "gun-free zone" sign, but because he went to school there as a child.

"As a family member of a victim who was murdered in a school, I will continue to show up here our Capitol and make sure our schools remain safe havens for learning and not battlefields."

Taylor Rhodes, a lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners advocacy organization, said the proposal didn't require teachers and principals to go armed or confront attacks.

"This is about the opportunity, it's not about forcing," he said. "It's about giving the school districts the choice to arm their teachers, if they so choose."

Former state Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, represented the NRA at Tuesday's hearing. He said statistics indicated people who have concealed-carry permits are more law-abiding than the average citizens, including law-enforcement officers.

All House Bill 1040 sought to do was remove the language in the state law that says their otherwise lawful permit to carry a weapon doesn't apply on school grounds, Brophy said.

"Should these, the safest among us, the most law-abiding among us, be allowed to protect themselves, and their families, and their communities not only in the grocery store or the Walmart or the Target, but also on a K-12 campus?" Brophy asked.

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