In 1999, Colorado State Representative Patrick Neville was a 10th grader at Columbine High School. He had just slipped away for a fast food lunch when two armed students, who would claim the lives of twelve students and one teacher, stormed into the building.
While Neville maintains that many of the school’s faculty and staff acted courageously on that fateful day, many more lives could have been saved if someone had the authority to be legally armed and fend off the attackers.
Based on those beliefs, Neville, a Republican, has introduced legislation in Colorado that would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit the right to have firearms on public school property. Without the ability to protect themselves, he says, our children and their teachers are easy prey.
As part of a comprehensive nationwide nudge to broaden gun owners’ rights to possess firearms on K-12 and college campuses, North Dakota and Wyoming have presented similar legislation.
Supporters vow it will improve safety in our nation’s schools. According to a poll conducted last year by Quinnipiac University, about half of Coloradans are in favor of the legislation while 45 percent are opposed. Katie Lyles is one of those who are opposed to having guns in Colorado schools.
Ms. Lyles, too, was a 10th grader at Columbine High School in 1999. Today she teaches art in a Colorado elementary school.
She feels the legislation is not a valid long-term solution- that stopping the violence before it happens needs to be the community’s focus. She worries that the logistics of combining children and gun safety will not be possible.
If recent history is any indicator, the legislation will make it no further than the Democratic Governor and Democrat-controlled Colorado House of Representatives.
Wyoming State Assemblyman Allen Jaggi stands a much better chance of seeing his legislation turned into law where the mostly Republican House has already approved a bill that would abolish “gun-free zones.”
Jaggi believes eradicating the defenseless “gun-free zones” might give would-be school shooters pause, with the understanding that somebody, somewhere, could be armed to retaliate.
While Jaggi cites a citizen’s right to bear arms, opponents argue that concealed carry permits could fall into the wrong hands, making it even easier for would-be school shooters to wreak havoc on campuses.
Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Balow is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, but believes that schools will need to be afforded some leeway for the legislation to be effective.
North Dakota Assemblyman Dwight Kiefert agrees. Legislation he has presented demonstrates the differing needs of urban and rural schools by allowing campuses to opt out if they feel they are close enough for local law enforcement to respond in a timely manner.
If funding allowed, Kiefert would like to see each school in his state outfitted with an armed resource officer and the materials to deal with mental illness, which he feels is the root of the problem.
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