DENVER – Democrats have yet to file gun control legislation many lawmakers promised before the session began, but were quick Monday to criticize the Republican response to tragedies in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora.
The first gun legislation considered this session would allow local school boards to decide whether employees with concealed carry permits should be allowed to have guns on campus. After a several-hour hearing Monday, it was defeated in committee 3 to 2.
“I think they are to a large extent playing politics,” said Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. “It’s a tough problem, so I can’t completely excoriate them for not coming up with a magical solution because I haven’t come up with a magical solution.”
Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, is proposing a bill that would require all businesses that prohibit guns on their premises to hire an armed guard. If businesses open to the public do not hire armed guards, Lambert said they would be liable for any lawsuits filed resulting in personal injury.
“I think they are liable now,” he said.
That bill is scheduled to be heard in committee Wednesday.
Morse said he has been working on a firearms bill since the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting in which 20 children and six staff members were killed by a man using his mother’s assault rifle. But Morse said he doesn’t have a comprehensive solution to introduce yet.
“Obviously the person with the most knowledge and experience and expertise in this area is me, and so I’m trying to figure out what can we do that would actually have an impact and how can we piece all that together,” said Morse, who was a police chief. “I think Newtown is going to sear our consciousnesses for a generation, so an extra two-weeks, we’re not going to lose the impetus.”
Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, spoke Monday on the steps of the Capitol to a rally of about 100 people about the need to eliminate assault weapons from Colorado neighborhoods.
Conversations among Democrats have included universal background checks for all, limiting the number of bullets in magazines or clips, and bans on certain types of firearms.
Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said his proposed legislation, Senate Bill 9, would have enabled teachers to defend themselves and students while also deterring armed assailants.
“Gun-free zones are something that needs to be reconsidered,” Harvey said, whose wife is a teacher in Douglas County. “My wife and kids are sitting ducks. The bad guys know that they can go into my wife’s school or my kids’ school without any fear of anyone being able to protect themselves.”
Opponents of the measure raised concerns about guns misfiring in schools, and children getting their hands on guns.
Currently only security officers are allowed to carry guns on school campuses in Colorado, Harvey said.
“Adding guns to schools isn’t going to help,” Morse said. “I mean we have guns in lots of different places, from banks to police stations and they are all the scene of shootings as well, and plus, it just creates a culture of violence.”
Harvey said he had no illusions his bill would pass out of the Democrat dominated committee, but wanted to have public discourse about the issue.
• SB62: Requires security at all businesses that ban firearms.
Author: Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs
Action: Senate Judiciary Committee 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
• SB09: Allows school districts to permit employees with valid concealed-carry permits to carry a concealed handgun on campus.
Authors: Senators Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley and Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch; Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono
Action: Failed Senate Judiciary Committee, 3 to 2
Next step: None
Contact Megan Schrader: 719-286-0644 Twitter @CapitolSchrader