In Wake of School Shooting, Colorado Republicans Aim to Loosen State Gun Laws

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, right, and Evan Todd, left, were both students at Columbine the year of the massacre. They spoke in support of a bill that would allow guns in schools on Wednesday. Photo by John Herrick

Students across the country are calling for stricter gun laws following the deadly shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week. But here in Colorado, Republican lawmakers moved forward with three bills that would loosen gun restrictions.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who was a sophomore at Columbine High School in 1999, the year of a deadly shooting, again proposed a bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns inside K-12 schools. Currently, the law says a gun can be brought onto school property but has to remain in a vehicle.

But the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee voted 6-3 against this proposal along party lines Wednesday night.

Neville said he will keep introducing the bill. It protects students, he said, because police often take too long to arrive at the scene of a shooting.

“People under attack can’t wait on police,” Neville told the committee. “Many would fight if they had the legal right to do so.”

Evan Todd, who was also a sophomore at Columbine the year of the massacre, said he was in the library when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire. Todd said he was the first student shot and later had a gun put to his head. He said he told the gunmen that he had done nothing wrong to them and they walked away. The gunmen killed 15 people that day, including themselves. 

“I sat there waiting for someone to stop what was going on. I sat in the library and listened to people be murdered and no help came,” Todd told the committee.

He supported the bill, he said, because it could allow people to confront gunmen like those at Columbine.   

But students from Wyatt Academy outside the committee room said they don’t want teachers to have guns in their school. Students at the Denver School of Science and Technology agreed.

“I think the only job that teachers should have is to enlighten their students,” Jonah Landeck, a 16-year-old high school student at DSST Stapleton, told The Colorado Independent. “The answer to bad guys with guns is not good guys with guns.”

Students say they are concerned guns in schools could lead to increased violence.

Instead, they said they prefer professional security officers or gun-control legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of students likely to commit acts of violence.   

“I think safety starts with legislation on monitoring who has guns in their hands,” Rick Brewer, the assistant principal at Wyatt Academy, told The Colorado Independent. “We need to have tighter legislation on how weapons are acquired by individuals.”

The committee voted down another Republican-sponsored bill Wednesday night that would allow business owners and employees to use deadly force against intruders. It is also expected to vote down a bill that would repeal the state’s ban on high-capacity magazines. 

“I have heard these bills for five years now, and I keep coming back to the fundamental idea that it’s absurd to suppose that the way to reduce gun violence is to add more guns to the mix,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, chairman of the committee.

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