Eight and a half hours of testimony did nothing to change Colorado’s gun laws Wednesday. Three bills killed annually by House Democrats were killed again on three party-line votes before the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
The newly dead-again legislation includes:
• House Bill 1036 would have allowed anyone with a concealed-carry permit to carry on public school grounds.
• House Bill 1037 would have extended the right to owners, managers and employees to use deadly force against an intruder at a business.
• House Bill 1097 would have repealed Colorado’s 2013 ban on ammunition magazines of more than 15 rounds.
House Republican leader Patrick Neville recalled being a 15-year-old in Littleton when the Columbine High School massacre occurred in 1999. He recalled attending the funeral of friends killed by Columbine students of student Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.
“The flashy gun-free zone signs didn’t stop them, but I do believe it could have been stopped if the teachers hadn’t been prevented by law from protecting their students,” Neville said. “I never want my daughters to experience the same horrors my classmates did that day and in the days that followed.”
Added Ransom, “I’m a former teacher. I would want to be allowed to protect my students, and that’s what I think most teachers would want to do.”
Tom Mauser, a gun-control proponent and the father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, rebuffed Neville’s argument that gun-free zones attract shooters.
“My son’s killers didn’t carry out their massacre because it was a gun-free zone,” he said. “They carried it out there because it was their school.”
He said school shooters are deranged and, like Klebold and Harris, suicidal. Having an armed teacher would not be a deterrent, Mauser said.
Amie Baca-Oehlert, a school counselor for the Adams 12 Five Star Schools and vice president of the 35,000-member Colorado Education Association, said allowing people to carry a concealed weapon on campus raised liability and ability issues.
Teachers interact closely with students, and the possibility of a student taking a gun by overpowering a teacher is real. She questioned if the teacher would be liable or the school system for the deaths or injuries that might result from that.
“I’m trained to educate children, not to assess whether I should take out a gun and use it on someone,” Baca-Oehlert said.
She said the gun fights in the legislature took time away from the real issue.
“As a high school counselor, I can tell you that we do not have enough mental health support in our schools,” she said. “We need to be having that conversation about what we can really do to help address the needs of students who are troubled, who are facing unbelievable circumstances, so we can help them and prevent these types of situations from even coming forward.”
Dan Murphy with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners said people are just trying to do the right thing in a crisis, and the law is in the way.
“These are law-abiding citizens who just want to defend themselves and their families,” he told the committee.