Brennan Linsley/Associated Press
DENVER – Democrats struck down a Republican proposal to arm teachers with concealed guns Monday.
It was the first Republican attempt to respond to mass shootings in Aurora and an elementary school in Connecticut, and the first of many rounds of fights over gun control this year.
Monday’s debate points to a culture clash at the Capitol that will make it difficult to achieve consensus as the Legislature tackles gun control for the first time since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
One side says the country has too many guns, while the other side says there are not enough.
Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said gun-free zones at schools don’t work, and teachers should be armed if they want to be.
“Gun-free zones only work for those that are law-abiding citizens,” Harvey said. “The criminals, the bad guys, they don’t care. But they do know that the good guys don’t have guns.”
Harvey has school-age kids, and his wife is a teacher.
“My wife and my kids are sitting ducks,” he said.
Harvey’s Senate Bill 9 would have let school boards allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. It failed on a 3-2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Most of the two dozen witnesses testified in favor of arming teachers, but several opponents said guns don’t increase safety.
Jean Grattet of the League of Women Voters said the United States has almost nine guns for every 10 people.
“This bill is based on the premise that more guns make us safe,” Grattet said. “You would think we would be the safest nation in the world, but we aren’t.”
That irked Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.
“What do you want them to do, run and hide? Honestly, is this really the logic we’re going to apply?” Lundberg said. “Are you really meaning to say that citizens should not be trusted with weapons for defense, and we should be left with ballpoint pens and running and hiding?”
The hearing became testy when Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, challenged a critic of his bill, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City.
“I don’t know that you’ve even held a gun, senator, have you?” Renfroe said.
Ulibarri said he grew up with guns.
“Our guns were under lock and key in my dad’s room. I understand the power you wield and, if it’s done badly, the consequences,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democrats sent conflicting signals Monday about when they will unveil their gun-control package.
Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said Sunday she was days away from introducing bills to ban high-capacity magazines and require background checks for private-party gun sales. Her district includes the Aurora theater where a gunman killed 12 people and injured around 70 last July.
But Senate President John Morse, a former police chief from El Paso County, said he wants to delay introduction of his party’s gun bills for a few weeks.
Morse said Monday he’s looking for a comprehensive package on gun violence and not piecemeal reforms.
“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. How do we piece all of that together? And I’m just not there yet,” Morse said.
But Morse said he’s committed to finding a solution this year.
“There’s not a magical solution. This is really hard,” he said.