After a debate that consumed much of the morning, the Colorado Senate approved a headline-making bill that creates statewide training options for teachers and staff who pack heat at school. Both the protracted debate and the approval of the Republican bill in the GOP-controlled upper chamber were anticipated.
The Senate will take a second recorded vote Monday, which will determine whether it advances to the Democrat-led House.
Senate Bill 5 would allow school districts to decide whether they want those who carry concealed weapons to help with school security to get training in a firearms course approved either by their local sheriff or any other sheriffs department in the state. Those who participate would have to have a valid concealed-carry permit and have completed a school-employee handgun-safety course that is provided by a county sheriff and approved by the school board.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, said the bill isn’t about guns in school. State law already lets schools designate staff members to help provide security and to hire armed security.
The bill does not establish specific training requirements but instead defers to the county sheriffs to decide which curriculum for gun safety and handling is most effective.
“I understand some people say we don’t need more guns in school,” Holbert said Friday on the Senate floor. “But that’s not Senate Bill 5, That’s already law … The question is how much training should be required.”
Democrats weren’t buying it and offered a series of failed amendments to move the bill to a special committee on school safety.
“Make no mistake, this bill would increase the flow of guns onto K-12 campuses,” said Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Cherry Hills Village.
“I think more guns in schools does not make children safer,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville
Republicans, however, contended that promoting a training regimen for concealed-carry permit holders authorized to carry on campus could provide the fastest response in a crisis involving an armed intruder.
“I think less guns in schools won’t make us safer,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a former Weld County sheriff. Cooke said schools in Weld County have implemented a similar policy successfully. He also said that as sheriff — when he held authority over issuing the county’s concealed-carry permits — the milestone 10,000th permit issued by his office was to a schoolteacher.
If history is any guide in a split legislature — with Republicans the majority in the Senate and Democrats in the House — the bill is unlikely to survive its journey through the lower chamber.