DENVER -- The first official hearing on Colorado gun laws took place at the Capitol Monday -- and it was a long one.
For several hours, lawmakers grilled one another and heard from a few dozen witnesses with strong feelings about the legislation up for debate, which would give school districts the ability to let staffers carry concealed weapons on campus.
The bill, being a Republican proposal, never had much of a chance before the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and was eventually voted down on a 3-2 party-line vote.
But the three-hour discussion, in a state that's seen more than its share of mass shootings, was emotional and wide-ranging.
"I'm not under any illusions that this bill is coming out of this committee," said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, one of the bill's sponsors, at one point during the hearing. "But this is a great discussion and one that everyone in Colorado should be listening to."
Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, told reporters Monday that it may be another week before Democrats begin introducing their own gun control proposals, which all focus on restricting, not broadening, access to guns and where they can be carried.
And an hour before the hearing began, 100 or so gun control advocates rallied on the Capitol's west steps calling for bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and universal background checks on all gun purchases.
"I'm sick and tired of the bloodshed," said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, whose son was gunned down in 2005.
The debate Monday over Senate Bill 9 split along partisan lines, with Republicans arguing that only more "good guys" armed with guns will be able to stop "bad guys" from spraying bullets inside schools.
"It's clear that gun-free zones just don't work," said Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, the bill's other sponsor, who took issue with questions from Democratic lawmakers about why armed guards have failed to stop mass shootings inside schools, on college campuses and even a heavily fortified military base.
"This bill has nothing to do with resource officers or armed guards," he said. "There probably were armed guards at some of these schools where we've had incidents.
"Concealed carry means just that: you don't know who's carrying. It could be one person or 100. It's just taking away that open-ended gun free zone to allow that psychotic person, without any threat against them, the ability to wreak havoc in our schools."
Educators and parents testified on both sides of this bill.
"I would take a bullet for my students every day," said Bethany Christainsen, a teacher who said she's very proficient with firearms.
Another parent described standing in a school lunchroom and taking stock of the 100 children who would be easy targets for any gunman.
But the state's largest teachers union opposes the bill.
"This bill will not lead to a safer environment," said Karen Wick, speaking on behalf of the Colorado Education Association, which recently polled its 38,000 members on what measures should be put in place to improve school security and student safety.
"Overwhelmingly, when they looked at the choices of what was most effective, it came down to increasing mental health and counseling services for students," Wick said. "The least amount of support was for allowing staff to carry concealed weapons."AlertMe