Republican-backed bill to allow teachers to carry concealed guns on campus fails in committee vote

Proposal had committee hearing Monday

DENVER - A committee of Colorado lawmakers voted 3-2 against a bill proposing to allow teachers to carry concealed firearms in classrooms.

The bill would have authorized schools to allow employees to carry concealed weapons. Under current state law, an individual with a valid permit may not carry a concealed handgun at any public K-12 school.

The bill is a Republican proposal aimed at making schools safer. It faced long odds during afternoon debate in a state Senate committee, as Democrats -- who control the legislature -- are pursuing their own bills to impose new gun restrictions.

"When you've got an active shooter, you've got seconds," said Jeanne Assam, who was an armed volunteer church security guard in 2007 when she was credited with stopping a gunman who opened fire inside New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

"For a minute, I thought I could die," she said. "Then I immediately thought, 'No, I'm not going to die today, he's going to die."

Those who support arming teachers point to Assam's actions in New Life as proof the idea could help.

Assam, a former police officer, says training was the key for her.

"There's many things you have to take into account before you engage a gunman and you don't have time to give yourself a lesson," she said.

Even so, 7NEWS found statistically most officers don't ever fire their guns and often aren't accurate when they do. A 2006 New York Police Department review found the shooting accuracy rate for officers in gunfights was only an average of 18 percent.

"Well, we would train teachers professionally. The school district can require additional training with this bill," said State Senator Scott Renfroe, who proposed the bill to arm teachers.

The Republican-backed proposal came in contrast to anticipated Democratic gun control proposals. House Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat and an outspoken supporter of gun control, is expected to introduce plans to restrict high-capacity magazines and require universal background checks on gun-buyers.

"Military-style assault weapons are not needed in our neighborhoods. They need to be on the battlefield," said Fields, whose son was shot and killed in 2005. "I am sick and tired of the bloodshed."

On Monday, more than 100 gun control supporters rallied on the Capitol steps for tougher gun legislation. Some people would like to see Colorado ban assault weapons, limit ammunition and expand background checks as ways to reduce gun violence.

"I don't think it's difficult to ask that we have universal background checks, that we take these weapons of war off the streets," Dave Hoover, uncle of Aurora theater shooting victim AJ Boik, said at the rally.

Another Republican gun bill under consideration would require armed security guards in businesses that don't allow patrons to carry concealed weapons. It also faces an uphill battle.

Senate President John Morse, a Democrat and former police chief, told reporters he's conflicted about which gun measures could work. Morse has said he supports an assault-weapons ban, but he told reporters he is still searching for the right approach to curb gun violence.

"I don't see a magical solution," Morse said.

Morse did dismiss GOP efforts so far.

"When you add guns, you're going to add shootings," Morse said.

Because Democrats control the legislature, the Republican measures are not expected to pass.