Patrick Neville has what he thinks is a simple, elegant solution to the scourge of school shootings: Allow properly trained, government-vetted Colorado residents over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons in public schools to help prevent violence.
The 31-year-old first-term member of Colorado's House of Representatives comes by this idea through experience as a survivor of the horrific April 20, 1999, massacre at the state's Columbine High School, during which two students murdered 12 of their peers and a teacher before taking their own lives. Neville, a sophomore at the time, said his life was forever changed by that day.
"I look at what's happening in other parts of the world -- in schools in Pakistan and Russia -- and I think the environment is more prone to terrorist attacks beyond what we experienced in Columbine," said Neville, the chief sponsor of a House bill introduced on Monday that would allow for concealed carry in the state's schools. "If you look at it logically, even if you could ban all guns -- which is not realistic -- it's better to allow law-abiding citizens who want to be armed to do so."
It's A Family Affair
Neville, who sponsored the bill along with his father, Senator Tim Neville, said it's his personal belief that if the heroic teachers and faculty of Columbine had been legally armed that day some of his friends would still be alive right now.
Patrick -- the latest member of the family to rise to public office on a platform that includes strong support for the rights of gun owners -- told MTV News he believes anyone 21 and older who has done the proper training and been fingerprinted and gone through the proper federal background check should be able to carry a gun in schools to prevent violence.
"If a person chooses to take on that responsibility they would have to be careful and I think it would offer more protection than flashy signs," he said.
Not Everyone Thinks More Guns Are The Answer
On the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre, MTV News spoke to Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action (formed after Sandy Hook), who said her work with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's group, Everytown For Gun Safety, was aimed in part at supporting bills to keep guns off college campuses and out of schools.
"Our kids don't go to school to learn how to have lockdown drills, nor do educators go to school expecting that sharpshooting is a job requirement," said Watts, speaking before Neville's bill was introduced this week. "A scenario where armed volunteers would protect our children in a shootout is preposterous. The data shows that that rarely happens and if having more guns in more places made us safer this would be the safest place on Earth."
Watts said the idea of arming teachers is "not a working solution" that addresses the threats faced on a daily basis by students and educators.
Former Columbine Classmates Support The Bill
Neville thinks that if one of the adults had had a weapon on that day at Columbine, just by engaging the shooters they might have provided a deterrent because the attackers would have known they'd face opposition. "I haven't spoken to many of [my former classmates] since then, but I've had several reach out to say, 'I remember you and I support you 100 percent,' " said Neville, who has his own concealed carry permit.
Needless to say, that day changed Neville's life.
"As a 15-year-old I was headed down the wrong path. ... I wasn't the greatest kid," he said. "But that woke me up and made me realize that I wanted to serve a purpose. That's the reason I joined the Army and it's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing now."