Arizona Senate passes bill to arm teachersby Alia Beard Rau on Mar. 18, 2013, under Arizona Republic News
Arizona has taken a big step toward allowing teachers to carry guns at school.
The state Senate on Monday passed legislation to arm some schoolteachers and staff. The House will now consider the bill, which was approved in the upper chamber by the Republican majority.
Earlier this month, South Dakota passed a law authorizing teachers to carry weapons, one of about a dozen states that introduced similar measures following the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. In most states, bills to arm teachers have failed to advance.
Arizona’s Senate Bill 1325 would allow school governing boards to authorize any employee to carry a concealed gun on campus if the school has fewer than 600 students, is more than 30 minutes and 20 miles away from the closest law-enforcement facility, and does not have its own school resource officer.
The bill would also allow boards of schools anywhere in the state to authorize any staff member who is also a retired law-enforcement officer to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
Schools would have to provide secure gun lockers, and the bill restricts staff to carrying a concealed handgun, pistol or revolver.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, has said the legislation is modeled after a program that has been successful in some Texas districts for six years without incident. He said he wrote the bill narrowly to cover only rural school districts and wants the bill to stay that way.
Democratic lawmakers have said there are rumors that the House will try to expand the bill to allow school staff members across the state to carry guns.
The bill passed 17-11, with Democrats opposing it and asking Republican leadership to organize more discussion on how to improve gun safety in the sate.
“If we really want to have a comprehensive discussion, we need to make sure we’re talking about everything from school resource officers to making sure we have good mental-health coverage,” said Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix. “This is just, to me, a very wrong direction, and I really wish we could have had more time to come up with something that could work very well for our state.”
Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said only 3 percent of children murdered by guns are killed in a school.
“The other 97 percent are murdered in their homes, neighborhoods and communities,” she said. “We need to address the issue of access to guns, universal background checks, limits on magazine clips. I don’t believe this bill addresses a real concern.”
Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said that even if the bill becomes law, rural schools likely won’t be able to pay the astronomical fee required to insure schools with gun-carrying teachers. “And if they can afford that amount of money, they can definitely afford school resource officers,” he said.