2024 Leg Session, Dave Kopel, Exclusives, Gold Dome, Local Gun Rights, Right To Arms, Uncategorized

Kopel: House Bill 1310; making schools more vulnerable to shooters

(Editor’s note: The following is written testimony of David B. Kopel on Colorado House Bill 24-1310, which bars trained school staff from being armed, submitted to the Colorado House Education Committee.)

It’s fair criticism to say that some pro-gun advocates are sometimes too ideologically rigid, even about proposals that would not affect defense, hunting, or any other exercise of the right to arms.

It’s equally fair to say the same is true sometimes for some anti-gun advocates. Endangering school safety to score a culture war win is an example.


  • Fifty-seven percent of voters believe that preventing “properly trained” armed teachers and staff being allowed to defend schools makes schools more dangerous.
  • Colorado’s FASTER program is taught by the same instructors who train the police, and it trains teachers and staff to the same or higher standards as law enforcement officers in subjects involving school defense.
  • School Resource Officers are a good idea, and they have sometimes stopped school shootings. At other times, SROs have failed to act while students were being murdered.
  • Forcing schools to rely exclusively on SROs jeopardizes the lives of children in school districts that cannot afford an SRO in every building.
  • The record shows that armed teachers and staff have thwarted mass shooters in schools.
  • The objections to FASTER amount to ideological objections to citizen self-defense in general.
  • Although HB24-1310 feeds the culture war appetites of lobbies such as Giffords, which has stated that it wants to eliminate gun ownership, the culture war pandering directly endangers the lives of students and adults at schools.

Voters favor “properly trained” armed school staff

 In 2022, a national poll of likely general election voters by The Trafalgar Group asked, “Do you believe that preventing properly trained school teachers and school staff from carrying a firearm makes schools more or less dangerous?”[1]

A majority of 57.5% responded that laws preventing “properly trained” teachers from carrying firearms makes school more dangerous. About a third of the respondents, 30.8%, said that getting rid of trained teachers makes schools less dangerous. And 11.6% were unsure.

Democrats felt the same way as the general public, although by a smaller margin: 48.2% to 41.3%. Independents broke almost exactly the same as the general public: 57.1% in favor of properly trained armed teachers, and 31.6% against. People aged 18-24 were the most supportive of properly trained armed teachers, with 61.8% for and 21.0% against.

Another poll in 2022, conducted by PDK for the American Federation of Teachers, asked a different question, about “Allowing teachers or other school staff to carry guns in school.” Unlike the Trafalgar question, the PDK question was any teachers or staff, with no requirement for training. When the question was phrased that way, support for armed teachers and staff fell to 45%.[2]

Background about FASTER

FASTER was created in Ohio in December 2012, following the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School.[3] FASTER Ohio’s website, FASTER Saves Lives, is the best resource for information about the program.[4] FASTER Colorado was founded by Laura Carno.[5] Later, FASTER Colorado was adopted as a supported program of the Independence Institute; in 2023, FASTER Colorado again became a separate organization.

In the last decade, FASTER has trained thousands of teachers and other school staff in emergency medicine and emergency armed defense.

FASTER training is voluntary. No teacher or staffer should be forced to carry a firearm. For teachers and staff who want training, FASTER offers 26 hours over three days.

Almost all FASTER participants already have been issued a concealed handgun carry permit. Carry permits authorize concealed carry almost everywhere in the licensee’s home state; they also authorize concealed handgun carry in many other states — because of interstate reciprocity, like with drivers’ licenses.

FASTER teaches specific skills for school protection. Legally, schools are said to act in loco parentis — in place of parents. Parents defend their children. Therefore, teachers defend their students. That’s what FASTER participants think, and FASTER prepares them to do so.

FASTER graduates learn the medical and defensive skills relevant to stopping a school shooter from taking lives. FASTER instructors are law enforcement trainers. They teach FASTER classes two of the skills they teach to law enforcement officers: treating gunshot wounds and defeating active shooters.

Part of FASTER training is a very specific subset of emergency medicine: how to keep a gunshot wound victim alive while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

The other major component of FASTER is close-quarters combat against active shooters. FASTER teaches the same skills and techniques that law enforcement officers are taught.

To graduate from FASTER, one must exceed the marksmanship criteria required in one’s state for certified law enforcement officers — such as Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The three days of FASTER training make graduates well-prepared against school shooters. The classes do not prepare graduates to perform unrelated medical or law enforcement functions, such as dealing with heart attacks or conducting traffic stops.

FASTER charges tuition to cover expenses, but scholarships are available for employees of any school district that cannot afford tuition.

There has never been a problem of any FASTER teacher causing an accidental discharge, or having a gun taken by student. FASTER training rigorously teaches weapons safety and retention.

FASTER is not the only good idea about preventing or thwarting school shootings. Implementing FASTER does not prevent consideration of any other school safety idea.

FASTER has a perfect record of prevention and a zero record of negative side-effects.

Kendrick Castillo

On May 7, 2019, at the STEM High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, two armed criminals invaded a classroom; student Kendrick Castillo rushed them. His heroism allowed all other students to escape, but Kendrick was fatally shot. Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, speak to FASTER classes and explain the necessity of armed staff. In May 2022, they held a fundraiser for FASTER Colorado, in honor of Kendrick.[6]

School Resource Officers

Having armed law enforcement on site at schools for protection is a good idea. Sometimes brave school resource officers save lives. For example, at Arapahoe High School in 2013, when a criminal began shooting in the school library, a sheriff’s deputy hurried down the hallway, and arrived at the cafeteria in 80 seconds. The criminal killed himself when he heard the deputy coming. One student had already been fatally shot by the criminal, who intended to kill many more.[7]

Similarly, in 2010 at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tenn., the school resource officer held an armed intruder at bay. The criminal was shot after two more officers arrived on the scene.[8] In 2001 in Santee, California, at Santana High School, an off-duty officer was present while dropping off his daughter at school. When the criminal started shooting, he called for backup, and with an arriving officer, cornered the killer in a bathroom, where the killer was reloading.[9]

However, not all law enforcement officers are so effective. During the February 14, 2018, murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, the infamous “Broward Coward” SRO cowered in the parking lot rather than engaging against the criminal in a classroom building. He even ordered arriving officers not to enter the school building.[10]

At Columbine High School in Colorado, the sheriff’s deputy, who was off-campus at lunch when the attack began, fired long-distance shots at the two criminals on the school patio, but when the criminals ran inside, he chose not to pursue. Even after SWAT teams later arrived, and while, via an open 911 line, the authorities knew that students were being methodically executed in the library, the police stood idle just a few yards outside the library, near the library exit door.[11]

At the time, the Columbine responders were following standard doctrine. As a result of Columbine, law enforcement doctrine changed, in favor of immediate counter-attack against mass shooters.

Nevertheless, the cowardly commanders of the police response to the mass shooter inside the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, refused to enter the building, and allowed the criminal to continue murdering students and teachers.[12]

In short, SROs, while beneficial in general, have several key problems. First, because attackers choose to begin their attacks at a place where the SRO is not, there is inevitably a delay in SRO counterforce.

As the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission explained:

“… SROs cannot be relied upon as the only protection for schools. Even if there is a rapid response by an SRO, it is insufficient in and of itself to safeguard students and teachers.”[13] “One SRO per campus is inadequate to ensure a timely and effective response to an active assailant situation.”[14]

Second, some SROs, who are obviously in the wrong line of work, prioritize their own safety, while allowing students and teachers to be murdered.

Third, some districts, especially rural ones, cannot afford SROs. Even those districts that can afford several SROs scattered among high schools rarely can afford SROs for every elementary and middle school.

HB24-1310 recklessly restricts school defense only to schools that can afford to hire full-time security guards, or pay a law enforcement agency for an officer. Even then, paid security guards or law enforcement officers sometimes go off campus—for vacation, for lunch, or for other duties. The criminal who attacked The Covenant School, in Nashville, Tenn., in March 2023 picked a day when the school’s security guard was on vacation.

Armed defenders save lives

Some school shooters are adults who have no connection to the targeted school.[15] One reason adult sociopaths attack schools is that schools are easy targets, because most have no armed defenders; those that do usually have only one, who is uniformed, and who can often be evaded by careful timing.

There are dozens of examples of armed citizens thwarting mass killers.[16] In 1997, a high school student shot 9 people at Pearl High School, in Pearl, Mississippi. As the criminal was returning to his automobile to drive to Pearl Junior High School, the Vice-Principal retrieved his own handgun from his automobile, and put the gun to the criminal’s head. The criminal immediately surrendered.[17]

In 1998, an armed adult stopped a shooting rampage at a high school prom in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.[18]

In August 2018 in Titusville, Florida, a “Peace in the City” event at a park was being held for students about to start a new school year. The event distributed backpacks and promoted nonviolence. When a man started shooting, “a good Samaritan carrying a licensed concealed weapon shot the attacker.” According to the municipal police, “This person stepped in and saved a lot of people’s lives.”[19]

Objections to properly trained armed school personnel

Some critics state that schools are, statistically, still relatively safe, mass murders notwithstanding. This is true, but it would still be beneficial to reduce the number of children and teachers who are murdered.

Other people worry that a student might steal a teacher’s gun. Putting aside the fact that it’s not difficult for a determined person to get a gun somewhere else (e.g., stealing from someone’s home), the risk could be addressed through policies requiring that the gun always be carried on the teacher’s body, or through similar policies.

PASTER trains teachers and staff to always carry their handguns on their bodies, and not to store them in a desk.

Some persons are fearful that an angry teacher might shoot a student. If you think that your children’s teachers might kill your child, if they had a weapon, then why are you entrusting your child to such a person at all? What kind of school district would retain a teacher who was believed to be so volatile that he or she might murder a child, if the opportunity arose?

In any case, FASTER trainees must already have passed a background check that screens for mental health. Further, only staff members authorized by the school administration may carry. The safety record of FASTER trainees is impeccable.

Finally, some against FASTER are merely generalized objections to armed self-defense, as well as to armed police. E.g., “What if the teacher aimed at the killer, but missed and hit a student?” This is always a risk — but it’s a far smaller risk than allowing a killer to aim at his victims methodically. Police officers sometimes miss too, but that is not a reason to disarm the police.

“The police are highly trained.” As described above, FASTER implements the full police training curriculum for the subjects it teaches. FASTER graduates must exceed the standard of the firearms proficiency POST test required for Colorado law enforcement officers.

The head of the Giffords lobby has stated her objective: “No More Guns. Gone.”[20] If the lobby ever achieved that objective, and managed to confiscate every firearm in the United States and to prevent illegal imports or manufacture, then school shootings would be impossible.

However, until a way can be found to prevent every incipient school shooter from possessing or acquiring firearms, then laws such as HB24-1310 harm school safety. They reduce the risk that school shooters will be killed, and increase the risk that innocent students and teachers will be.

David B. Kopel is research director at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.

[1] The Trafalgar Group, Nationwide Issues Survey May 2022, https://www.thetrafalgargroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/COSA-TeacherFirearms-Full-Report-0531.pdf

[2] Libby Stanford, 45 Percent of American Adults Support Armed Teachers in Schools, Poll Finds, Education Week, Aug. 11, 2022, https://www.edweek.org/leadership/45-percent-of-american-adults-support-armed-teachers-in-schools-poll-finds/2022/08; PDK International, Public Broadly Supports School Security – But Not Armed Teachers and Staff, https://pdkpoll.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/2022_PDK_Poll_School_Security.pdf.

[3] After Sandy Hook: Over 1,300 Teachers Trained to Stop Active Killers, Buckeye Firearms Association, Dec. 13, 2017, https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/after-sandy-hook-over-1300-teachers-trained-stop-active-killers.

[4] https://fastersaveslives.org/.

[5] FASTERColorado.org.

[6] Laura Carno, Come enjoy a beer, remember a hero, and help make schools safer, Complete Colorado, May 5, 2022, https://pagetwo.completecolorado.com/2022/05/05/carno-come-enjoy-a-beer-remember-a-hero-and-help-make-schools-safer/.

[7] Sadie Gurman, Kirk Mitchell. & Jeremy P. Meyer, Arapahoe High School shooting: Gunman intended to harm many at school, Denver Post, Dec. 14, 2013 (updated June 3, 2016), https://www.denverpost.com/2013/12/14/arapahoe-high-school-shooting-gunman-intended-to-harm-many-at-school/.

[8] Rain Smith, Police Officers Kill Gunman at Sullivan Central, TimesNews.net, Aug. 30, 2010, http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=9025899.

[9] Former Deputy Speaks on 2001 Santana High School Shooting, 10News.com, March 2, 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20160921052503/https://www.10news.com/news/former-deputy-speaks-on-2001-santana-high-school-shooting.

[10] “Former Deputy Scot Peterson was derelict in his duty on February 14, 2018, failed to act consistently with his training and fled to a position of personal safety while Cruz shot and killed MSDHS students and staff. Peterson was in a position to engage Cruz and mitigate further harm to others, and he willfully decided not to do so.” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, Initial Report (Jan. 2, 2019), p. 96, http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MSDHS/CommissionReport.pdf.

[11] David Kopel, What If We Had Taken Columbine Seriously? The political discourse since the killings last year has been foolish, escapist, and cowardly, The Weekly Standard, Apr. 24, 2000, https://davekopel.org/2A/Mags/WhatIfWeHadTakenColumbineSeriously.htm.

[12] U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Critical Incident Review: Active Shooter at Robb Elementary School, https://cops.usdoj.gov/uvalde.

[13] Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, p. 97

[14] Id., p. 100.

[15] Examples include Winnetka, Illinois (1988), where a 30-year-old woman Dann attacked a second-grade classroom; and Stockton, California (1989) when an adult with a long criminal and mental illness record attacked a school playground.

[16] For one list, see Dave Duringer, Mass Shootings Stopped by Armed Citizens, LawNews.TV, https://lawnews.tv/mass-shootings-stopped-by-armed-citizens/.

[17] Wayne Laugesen, A principal and his gun, Boulder Weekly, Oct. 15, 1999, copy available at https://davekopel.org/2A/OthWr/principal&gun.htm.

[18] Again, Student Held in Slaying, Phil. Inquirer, Apr. 26, 1998.

[19] Bystander shoots gunman at back-to-school event, FOX 35 WOFL, Aug. 6, 2018, https://www.fox32chicago.com/news/bystander-shoots-gunman-at-back-to-school-event; “They’re shooting, the kids are running:” 911 calls released in Titusville park shooting, WKMG 6, Aug. 8, 2018, https://www.clickorlando.com/news/2018/08/08/theyre-shooting-the-kids-are-running-911-calls-released-in-titusville-park-shooting/; “It’s a miracle,” armed citizen was at Titusville peace rally when gunman opened fire, police say, WKMG 6, Aug. 7, 2018, https://www.clickorlando.com/news/2018/08/07/its-a-miracle-armed-citizen-was-at-titusville-peace-rally-when-gunman-opened-fire-police-say/.

[20] Philip Elliott, “No More Guns. Gone”: Why Gabby Giffords Isn’t Giving Up, Time, Apr. 26, 2023, https://time.com/6274979/gabby-giffords-gun-control/.


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