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Columbine High Shooting Survivor Highlights Longmont Talk on Arming Teachers

August 5, 2018

Laura Carno, co-founder of FASTER, the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response, introduces a video of one of her group's instructions during a meeting at the Longmont Public Library on Saturday.

Addressing about three dozen people at the Longmont Public Library on Saturday, Evan Todd recounted being shot at the Columbine High School massacre and then menaced by one of the gunmen who for some reason decided not to kill him and walked away.

“That day changed my life in many ways,” Todd said. “It’s a day I will always remember. It’s a main driving force for why I support this program.”

Todd spoke along with Laura Carno, Executive Director of FASTER Colorado, a non-profit organization that provides firearms training to school staff with the idea that they can intervene in a mass shooting and save lives.

She said about 10,000 school staff members are armed in the United States, and in Colorado, there are possibly 250 to 300 staff members carrying guns.

“What we know about mass shootings is they are going to happen,” Carno said. “It’s a numbers game on time. The faster someone can stop the bad thing that is going on, the fewer people will be injured” or killed.

The event was hosted by Rally for our Rights, a northern Colorado-based Second Amendment advocacy group which has been active in Boulder County since the city of Boulder passed an ordinance earlier this year banning certain semi-automatic weapons deemed to be assault rifles.

Colorado and at least eight other states permit teachers to arm themselves in the classroom if their district or charter school allows it. Thirty school districts or charter schools in Colorado allow the practice, but both the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain school districts have rejected the idea. No statewide training standard or use of force policy exists.

Last year, a bill sponsored by Republicans in the state house would have required school boards to consult with their local sheriff’s office to develop a curriculum for arming teachers, but it failed to pass committee.

Not everyone is enamored with the idea, and Steve Villarreal, president of the St. Vrain Valley School District’s teachers union said teachers “have made it clear that the vast majority aren’t interested in this.”

Instead, he said, the majority of teachers are comfortable with the safety measures the district has taken, including having armed school resource officers in schools.

“The district has done everything they can do to make schools as safe as they can,” he said.

Ann Michelle Hill, Co-Lead of the Boulder Chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in an email that her organization opposes arming school teachers.

“Arming teachers ignores research that shows the presence of a gun increases the risks posed to children,” Hill said. “There is no evidence that arming teachers will protect children in schools. To the contrary, research indicates that arming teachers will make children less safe.”

Carno said that no call exists to require any teacher or staff member to carry a gun, and the ranks of armed teachers would be purely voluntary. She added that guns should be kept out of the hands of children and mentally ill people, but she is hesitant to fold gun control into the discussion of arming staff.

“This is not political,” she said. “It’s about saving kids. If people want to make it about gun control, it’s not something we are talking about. It’s legal in Colorado.”

Todd said that arming staff is not the “end-all, be-all” solution to school shootings, but it will stop one its tracks. That said, he thinks there is more that can be done to prevent such shootings from happening.

“Watch the red flags,” he said. “Every single time these kids who do this show they have the intent to kill. It’s a societal problem. There is a lack of respect for life.”

He added that schools can be made more difficult to get inside, but he believes that arming teachers is a necessity.

“The fact is, no matter how much prevention, there is still going to be people who have ill intent and want to kill people and we have to protect innocent lives,” he said.

Staff Writer Amy Bounds and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Bear: 303-473-1355, bearj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme

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