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Highlands Ranch shootings renew debate over arming teachers in classrooms

FASTER: Colorado in third year of training

Highlands Ranch shootings renew debate over arming teachers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Even having an armed security guard on campus and law enforcement responding in two minutes Tuesday wasn't enough to prevent a death and eight injuries in the shootings at Highlands Ranch STEM School.

It's why the group FASTER: Colorado is renewing its plea for more school districts to allow teachers and other authorized personnel to concealed-carry handguns for added security.

"We're not asking that everyone who works at a school, carry a gun," said FASTER executive director Laura Carno.  "What we're talking about is having more defenders closer to where these things start, so that we have a better chance of saving lives and not losing children in these tragedies again."

Only two public school districts in southern Colorado -- Hanover and Peyton -- are known to have armed school personnel beyond security guards and school resource officers.

FASTER is in its third year of providing training to school staff who already have permits to carry guns and volunteer to provide additional security during an active shooter situation.

The organization offered a class in 2017, three classes last year and has five scheduled for this year.

"We have 24 people per class and they're always full," Carno said.  "We'll have more classes if we can find an available facility."

FASTER collects donations to pay for the cost of training, which includes a three-day class taught by active-duty law enforcement officers who have experience in active shooting situations.

Carno said nearly 150 people in 30 Colorado districts have taken the training but most districts remain opposed to the idea, despite many parents calling for the arming of teachers and staff.

"Parents need to remember the school boards work for them," she said.  "Parents need to tell the school board what they're interested in and want to talk about.  School board members need to listen and at least be open to the idea if they want to be re-elected."

But a nonpartisan group, Moms Demand Action, opposes arming teachers and school personnel.

Amber Langsteiner, a MDA member, said having guns in a classroom subtracts from the normal learning environment.

"And I've had family members who witnessed a school shooting," she said.  "But guns in school isn't the way.  Neither is taking guns away from people.  How about having more mental health resources and counselors in schools to work help prevent violence?  How about trusting our lawmakers to pass laws to address the matter?

Langsteiner said the "red flag law" recently passed by Colorado lawmakers is an example of a good law that can help increase safety and security.

"But it got amended," she said.  "And now there are all these counties who have declared themselves sanctuary counties that refuse to enforce the law.  It will work if people just obey and enforce it."

Carno said the issue of arming teachers has become less controversial and political in the three years since FASTER began offering training.

"I don't think parents see this as a gun issue or a political issue," she said.  "They're just tired of the shootings and want to keep their kids safe.  Once we take the necessary measures in our schools, people are going to stop killing our children."

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