It’s Hard to Get Beyond Emotion in Legislative Debates on School Safety

School safety is a big deal. I don’t write a lot about it, partly because big people say I’m not “mature” enough yet to understand it all. But after hearing one of my Education Policy Center friends interview a school board member about a legislative bill he supports, I had to put a little something out there. Senate Bill 9 simply would have allowed local school boards to adopt policies that allow teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons on campus.

The goal? School security, keeping students safe. Apparently, there have been some pretty awful things that have happened I’m not “mature” enough to know about. (That’s OK, I’d rather not know.) In the end, after a long hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed SB 9 on a 3-2 party line vote. Given the nature of the bill, I found this one tidbit interesting:

[The Colorado Association of School Boards] was neutral on the bill, in keeping with different viewpoints among its membership.

CASB is made up of many different school boards around the state. And remember, the proposal didn’t seek to mandate local boards adopt policies in which properly trained school employees with concealed carry permits could exercise their right and responsibility on school property, too. The legislation only allowed them to do so. What I take away then is that some school board members don’t want any of their peers even to have that choice.

I understand that a lot of people with different views on the issue all care about kids, though Patrick — the only school board member or district official to testify on either side — said that two-thirds of the witnesses were in favor of SB 9. That includes at least one teacher from Greeley, who said that “right now we’re sitting ducks.” About 300 more Colorado school employees spent last night at a concealed firearm training course put on by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

All in all, though, the most interesting comment I found on this issue from yesterday’s hearing came from one of the three legislators who voted against SB 9:

Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, argued that more guns in schools could inadvertently put students at greater risk of being accidentally shot.

“Sometimes passion overcomes reason,” Aguilar argued.

According to all accounts, a bill that could have created a very heated discussion actually produced a civil exchange at the committee hearing. If nothing else, that was a positive development.

Ironically, Jon Caldara made a similar point about the need to let cooler heads prevail and not to make any big decisions during such an emotionally difficult time. When it comes to guns, Constitutional rights, and the like, we can only hope all policymakers got that message.