After several Colorado school districts voted to allow campus personnel to function as unofficial security officers, dozens of teachers in the state have begun gun safety training under a pilot program that began after the Sandy Hook massacre.
On June 20, the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response program began training teachers with concealed carry permits in Weld County, Colorado. The three-day training session aimed to teach school officials how to react in the event of a gunman targeting their campuses.
"In a nutshell, it is training for teachers and other school staff who are armed first responders in their schools," Laura Carno of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, who helped bring FASTER to the state, told KUSA.
Colorado prohibits people from carrying firearms onto K-12 school campuses, but several of the state's school districts have opted to allow teachers to acquire a security officer designation. If the teachers undergo a training program, they can be armed while on school premises.
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In July 2016, Colorado's Fleming School District voted to allow campus staffers to be armed under this requirement. In December 2016, Hanover School District voted on a similar measure on the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.
In the Sandy Hook shooting, which happened in December 2012, Adam Lanza entered an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, and shot and killed 20 children and six adults. Gun proponents say that having armed teachers would have lowered the number of children who died or could have prevented Lanza from shooting in the first place.
"The timing was a coincidence," Michael Lawson, a Hanover school board member and National Rifle Association instructor, told the Los Angeles Times of the vote.
Hanover resident Terry Siewiyumptewa supported the measure because the school district is remotely located, resulting in a slow response time from law enforcement.
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"If I need a deputy it will take 30 to 45 minutes to get here," Siewiyumptewa said. "How long did Sandy Hook take? Thirteen minutes? And 26 people were dead? So now you understand our problem."
Carno, who supports enabling more Colorado teachers to be armed while on campus, asserted that there were more state districts that had secretly approved of the measures adopted by Fleming and Hanover, making a training program like FASTER necessary.
"There are many more schools with armed staff than we thought," Carno told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "I'm hearing from another dozen that are contemplating it. Ninety-five percent don't make it public."
Tom Mauser of Colorado Ceasefire, who lost his son in the Columbine High School shooting in rural Colorado in 1999, believes that allowing teachers to bring gun to schools only increases the danger for students.
"These teachers are not going to get the level of training that law enforcement or really highly trained security guards are going to have," Mauser said, saying armed teachers could result in crossfire and law enforcement "coming on the scene not knowing who the good guy and the bad guy is.”
FASTER was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and is based in Ohio. Ken Toltz of Safe Campus Colorado views the program with suspicion and has accused it of having an agenda to proliferate firearms.
“FASTER was created and is promoted by the Ohio state gun lobby,” Toltz said. “Bringing it to Weld County is an attempt to lay the groundwork for another legislative push in the 2018 session to loosen Colorado’s gun laws.”
Carno dismissed criticism of FASTER, asserting "I don’t think anybody’s opposed to safety training, so I think that’s why it’s not really controversial."