As school safety discussions ramp up across the nation, a state legislator who is a survivor of the Columbine massacre is proposing legislation that would end gun-free zones.
Leading the charge is Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who was a student at the high school in Columbine, Colorado, at the time of the 1999 shooting. He advocates that willing teachers have the ability to arm themselves and have concealed carry permits.
Neville, a Republican, told The Daily Signal that he hopes to “end this crazy policy of gun-free zones that I think just invites criminals to do harm to our students.”
Last week, however, the Colorado House rejected Neville’s proposal and similar bills in the wake of a gunman’s rampage Feb. 14 at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.
Neville has personal experience with school shootings. Now in his mid-30s, he was a sophomore at Columbine High School when two fellow students opened fire there in 1999, killing 13.
The Daily Signal interviewed Neville on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, one day after he was invited to speak with President Donald Trump at the White House.
“What I’ve been presenting, as a former Columbine student I take this very personal, is that we end that policy [of gun-free zones] and we actually allow our teachers to defend our students,” he said.
Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who was a Columbine High School sophomore at the time of the 1999 mass shooting, is pushing legislation that he says would protect students — by getting rid of gun restrictions in schools. pic.twitter.com/S6l9iEpZOk
— God & Country ?? (@ezeduzit4ever) February 20, 2018
Neville said Trump is open to the idea of commonsense solutions to gun violence.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were also present at the White House meeting.
The problem encompasses more than guns, Neville said. The two Columbine perpetrators also wanted to explode a bomb, he noted.
“I don’t think raising the age limit, I don’t think banning an assault weapon is going to work,” Neville said. “I think the only thing that’s truly going to work is allowing our teachers, teachers who want … to defend our students.”
His personal experience prompted him to take action.
The Columbine shooting left a “huge impression,” he said.
He recalled a distraught father coming up to him in search of his missing son. He later found out that the student had died.
“For me now as a father, I never want to go through what that father went through, and don’t want my kids to have to go through what I went through.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 21, 2018
Although the Colorado House didn’t pass his legislation, he has received growing support for his ideas, including from former Columbine classmates.
“It’s kind of incredible that I have so many former classmates reaching out to me saying that they support this,” Neville said. “And we had three people [who were fellow survivors] testify on the bill when I supported it in Colorado on Wednesday night that came out.”
“And their stories, I’ll be honest with you, are much more compelling than mine,” he said. “We had one student who was actually in the [school] library and was shot.”
I’ll tell you, for every one student that came out publicly supportive of the bill, there was at least 30, if not more, students who support it. But because of the anti-gun opposition, which is so organized and so well-funded, has been so just vitriolic about it, they’re scared to come out.
Neville said he remains confident that his proposal to end gun-free zones, allowing teachers to be armed, would produce real results.
“I think that would also deter these from happening from the get-go, because the person is going to think twice and they’re going to know that they aren’t going to go in unopposed,” he said. “They’re going to face fierce opposition once they hit that school door. They’re going to think twice and not even do it in the first place.”