The idea of arming public school employees gained traction in a poll released Wednesday, a week before lawmakers hear testimony on a bill that would allow Colorado school districts to permit adults to carry guns inside classrooms.
Fifty percent of Coloradans support allowing teachers to be armed inside schools, while 45 percent remained in opposition, according to the Quinnipiac poll in the pollster’s first look at the issue since a gunman walked into Arapahoe High School in December and killed a classmate before taking his own life.
On Tuesday, a House committee will hear testimony on a measure sponsored by Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance.
“It’s clear Coloradans want to keep Colorado schoolchildren safe,” Humphrey said. “I’m saying let’s give school districts that option.”
Humphrey’s bill authorizes a school board to adopt written policy that allows employees to carry concealed weapons on school grounds as long as they have a valid permit.
More than a dozen states allow adults to carry loaded weapons inside K-12 schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg said his district does not support such legislation.
“The safety and security of our students is the number one priority for Denver Public Schools,” Boasberg said. “We do not believe that arming teachers is the right solution to ensure the safety of our schools.”
Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson said the school district has not taken a position on the bill, but she urged caution in considering such legislation.
“Having worked with law enforcement a lot and having really looked at safety and security, carrying a gun is something that requires a lot of training and it’s not just one firearm safety class,” Stevenson said. “It’s really important to know what actually creates greater safety. It’s risk assessment and threat assessment. It’s reporting everything. It’s a high level of training.”
The poll found a stark divide among gender when it came to the question of arming teachers as men support the effort by a much wider margin than women, who mostly oppose it. Also, Republicans strongly favor arming teachers at 73 percent, while just 19 percent of Democrats support it.
“There’s no question we all want to keep our kids safe,” said state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, the chairman of the House Judiciary committee, which will hear testimony on Humphrey’s bill.
The same committee rejected a similar bill presented by Humphrey last year, and on Wednesday Kagan remained noncommittal when asked whether the poll might change his opinion on the measure. “It’s why we hear testimony,” he said.