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State Gun Bills Prompt Hundreds To Testify Following School Shooting

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) - Hundreds of people testify on gun bills at the state capitol, including survivors of Colorado's mass shootings and family members of those killed in them.

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(credit: CBS)

They have very different views on gun control.

"This bill is meant to ensure our defenseless children have a chance," Rep. Patrick Neville told a House committee as he introduced a bill that would allow schools to arm teachers.

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Rep. Patrick Neville (credit: CBS)

Neville is a survivor of the Columbine shooting and lost two of his close friends in the shooting.

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(credit: CBS)

"I never want my kids to go through what I went through, and this is a realistic way to stop this from happening," he said.

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CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Rep. Patrick Neville. (credit: CBS)

He's carried the bill year after year. And year after year, Tom Sullivan has come to testify against it. His son Alex was killed in the Aurora theater shooting.

"I don't know if I need to shout louder or what else I can do," Sullivan said.

He says he's tried using his voice and now he wants a vote. He's running for the House of Representatives.

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CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Tom Sullivan. (credit: CBS)

"You can raise money for somebody. You can make empowered speeches at places, but when it comes down to it, you don't really have the ability to make the change unless you're the one up there making the vote. That's what I have to do," Sullivan said.

He ran for Senate in 2016 and lost, but he says the shootings haven't stopped so neither can he.

"And there's another one planning something right now. We know they are," he said.

He's challenging Republican Rep. Cole Wist, a gun rights supporter who's focused on mental health.

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Rep. Cole Wist (credit: CBS)

"Mental health services are critical to our ability to make sure that public safety remains paramount, and we have to make sure these services are available as early as possible so if kids are manifesting symptoms of mental illness, we have to get them treatment and treatment right away," Wist said.

Both candidates say gun rights is just one of the issues in the race. But, as 17 demonstrators - representing the latest victims in Florida - lay on the ground outside the capitol, it was clear, it's an issue that's not going away.

In addition to the bill allowing schools to arm teachers, lawmakers also heard bills to repeal the high-capacity magazine limit and allow business owners to shoot intruders - with immunity - like homeowners can.

The bill that would arm teachers died in committee with a 6-3 vote along party lines.

Next week, they'll take up a bill to ban so-called bump stock - devices that allow guns to fire like automatic weapons.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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