Scott Renfroe wants to take the National Rife Association’s position on school safety one step further.
As the NRA is calling for armed security guards in every school throughout the United States, the Republican senator from Greeley sponsored a bill during the first week of Colorado’s 2013 legislative session that would allow a school district employee to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds, if the employee holds a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun.
Each school district’s board of education or governing board of a charter school would be able to adopt a written policy.
Co-sponsoring the bill with Renfroe is Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.
In light of what happened in the school shooting at Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six staff members were killed by a gunman, Renfroe said he’s thought about beefing up school safety since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
“I was on the Eaton school board when Columbine happened,” Renfroe said. “We looked at what we were doing, dealt with our teachers, our students, our parents and administrators trying to make our school safe and see what we could do. Frankly, it even goes back to then of looking at what can you really do to make your school safe.”
Renfroe said what’s in place now at schools isn’t working.
“It’s clear when you really look at what we have today, that what we’re doing doesn’t work,” Renfroe said. “Criminals don’t obey the laws, and you can’t ban guns enough to create a safe zone that they’re not going to enter. As long as we have evil hearts in the world and until we change the hearts, you’re going to have evil. I see this as a debate we should have in a way to try to bring some safety and security into our classrooms to people who are qualified to do it.”
Renfroe said the bill would allow local school boards to make the decision on whether a district employee can carry a concealed handgun, and the school board could require additional training to make sure the employee was qualified to carry and felt comfortable doing it.
“I have four kids in the K-12 public system right now at Eaton, and I think we need to look at and try to do something different because what we have been doing doesn’t work,” Renfroe said. “I know there are districts that would probably never consider this, and I think there are other school districts that would. If you’re going to carry, you need to be properly trained. I trust teachers to educate my child, and that’s a huge responsibility. I trust them to make the decision if they feel they are qualified and able to carry a weapon also. I would love to give that opportunity to help protect not only themselves, but the students in their class.”
Renfroe said he hasn’t had any Democrats come on board in the Democrat-controlled Legislature regarding the bill.
“Obviously, I haven’t had people from the other side of the aisle run up and say they want to be signed on. I would be hopeful that people would not have the emotions of the gun issue get in the way of looking at really what is going on, and what are things we can do to try and keep our schools safe,” Renfroe said. “I would hope they would listen to people that are going to come and testify and people talking about the bill. I think there is support out there. Gun control itself is politically driven, and hopefully we don’t have that partisanship when you look at even a bill like this that isn’t mandating something, that’s giving it the local control aspect of it. Districts out in rural Colorado can’t afford to hire police officers or security within their schools like some of the inner-city schools do in the bigger cities. This might be another option for them.”
Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said he has reservations about the bill.
“My reaction to that is that if we’re going to have people on school grounds that are carrying weapons, that they need more training than what would be required by concealed carry the way the law stands now,” Young said. “It’s one thing to conceal carry to protect yourself, but it’s another thing when you’re in a situation where you’re not only protecting yourself but other people. The police have intense training that they give their officers on an ongoing basis when they’re out in the community to protect people. This is a similar kind of situation. I just think that anybody that’s on school grounds that would be in that capacity would need to have a huge amount of training to ensure that they could really provide that kind of protection for people.”
Saine said a superintendent from a rural school district thanked them for sponsoring the bill.
“He said he’s 30 minutes from the nearest law enforcement, and he said it’s preposterous that the only way he could protect the children is to find a good hiding place and just hope that the shooter doesn’t locate them,” Saine said. “That’s not protecting our children. If we don’t allow responsible gun owners to be inside the schools, then somebody will bring a gun inside a school who is not responsible.”