9OYS Safety Watch

Proposed state law would let school staff keep guns

CREATED Feb 19, 2013

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Reporter: Kevin Keen
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Talk of a gun inside a school is enough to send a shiver down a parent's spine, but Arizona's attorney general said his plan to allow firearms in certain schools could save students’ lives.
Behind the proposed state law are Attorney General Tom Horne and State Representative David Stevens, representing the Sierra Vista area. Both are Republicans.
“If a bad guy gets into the school with a gun...somebody is there with a gun to put a stop to it,” said Horne, who’s a former state superintendent.
House Bill 2656 would allow any public school board to choose to allow approved employees to keep firearms in their schools “for the purpose of defending that school campus.”
Those employees could be teachers or principals, but the bill doesn’t specify who's eligible.
The employees would need to pass background checks, undergo at least 24 hours of training each and pass a program.
State law enforcement would train them on legal issues, weapons care, marksmanship and "judgmental shooting," among other topics.
“If there had been such a person, for example, at Newtown -- hopefully it would've reduced the number of children that had been murdered,” Horne said.
The Arizona Education Association does not see it that way.
“The thought of having untrained people on campus with firearms seems to make a bad situation worse than better,” said John Fife, president of the Amphitheater Education Association and eighth grade teacher.
Fife -- a gun owner himself -- argued the training a teacher would receive under this bill is not enough.
KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen asked Fife, “Is there any amount of training that would change your mind about this proposal?”
“Yeah,” Fife answered. “I think our police officers and trained security personnel go through a lot more than 24 hours to get qualified.”
Both Horne and Stevens stressed they believed putting police in schools would be ideal, but “there's a couple of major funding issues coming up this year,” Stevens said. “We just don't know if the money's going to be there. This is an opportunity to put something in place that will help stem the tide from where we are now and where we want to go back to.”
“That speaks volumes to the way we view education over all in this state,” Fife said. “We want a world-class education, but seem to want to do it on the cheap. We don't want to provide the funding for it at all.”
Horne and Stevens also stressed the program would be optional. A school district board would choose to take part or not take part.
Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone called the bill “bad policy.” He told KGUN9 it was “wrong-minded” to place the responsibility of protection on teachers and not on law enforcement.
Do you support or oppose the bill -- or something in between? Join the discussion on the 9 On Your Side Facebook page or below this article.