A legislative assault on Colorado school safety | OPINION | Opinion | #schoolsaftey

Laura Carno

For the past 20 years, Colorado’s K-12 schools have had an affordable option to protect their children. School boards have been able to authorize selected employees as an armed security team. These security team members have had background checks, been vetted, been trained, have passed qualification tests on par with those tests given to law enforcement, and have been on campuses throughout the state with zero problems since their inception.

Under this 20-year-old law, its local control provision has allowed for rural school districts and interested charter schools to authorize armed staff, and for districts like Boulder and Denver to not authorize armed staff. These are decisions that should continue to be made by local school boards, the government body closest to districts, families and students. They know better what they need in their own town than politicians hundreds of miles away.

On Friday, House Bill 24-1310 was introduced. The key feature of this bill is the complete elimination of the current armed school staff protocols that have been operating safely in Colorado for 20 years, and the elimination of the ability to carry on campuses of higher education.

The K-12 schools in Colorado that have armed security teams represent schools in 41 of Colorado’s school districts. They have had armed security teams under the existing 20-year-old law with no negative issues. The armed school employees who have been through FASTER Colorado training number around 400, and we know of many more who get their training elsewhere. So, what is this law attempting to improve?

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In addition to operating with no negative issues, there have been a handful of reports from FASTER-trained schools through the years that led to the conclusion having armed staff has been a deterrent to violence on campus. In fact, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, schools that allow armed staff haven’t seen any school shootings during school hours, further reinforcing the deterrent effect.

If this bill were enacted into law, and schools wanted to deploy an armed presence on campus, it would cost them far more money than most schools can spend — especially the smaller rural districts. This is a financial burden on those schools that can least afford it. They can’t afford to hire school resource officers and they certainly can’t afford the private security force the bill would still allow.

This amounts to a giant unfunded mandate for the schools that can’t afford the more expensive options. Their only other choice is to go without security, which no one thinks is an acceptable choice.

Wealthy districts and expensive private schools will still be able to afford all the security they want. How is this fair?

There are districts and campuses that have school resource officers or other private security, and also choose to allow armed staff as a force multiplier. There have been instances, including in Colorado’s Arapahoe High School, where the presence of a school resource officer minimized the loss of life to one innocent person. That is not good enough. In Colorado, where we have had more than our share of school shootings, a goal of only one dead child is unacceptable.

This bill also impacts campuses of higher education. They have always had the ability for faculty, and qualified students, to be armed on campus. Because there has never been a requirement on college campuses for approval of concealed carry holders, there are an unknown number of armed people on campus. As with K-12 campuses, there have been zero negative problems.

Though there have been no issues on armed campuses, we do know killers continue to go onto gun-free campuses and kill innocent children and staff members. Notice the “gun-free” designation never stops the killers. Does society expect school staff members to run toward the sound of gunfire, and die trying to protect students? That is what they will be left with.

If there is no problem that needs to be solved, then what is the intent of this bill?

This bill is a direct attack on the hundreds of armed teachers, principals, janitors, coaches and others who are protecting our school children today on K-12 campuses, and those protecting college students on college campuses.

This is an unacceptable move by the state legislature. It’s not their job to provide a solution to a problem that isn’t there, and it’s not their job to pass laws that makes Coloradans less safe.

Laura Carno is the founder and executive director of FASTER Colorado, a nonprofit that has trained armed school staff for the past seven years.

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