Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Arizona Senate Bill Would Allow Professors to Carry Concealed on Campus

It is a good start. Next I want to see students allowed to carry on campus as well.

Bill would allow university professors to carry guns on campus

A bill in the Arizona Legislature would allow faculty at community colleges and state universities to carry guns on campus as long as they have concealed-weapons permits.

Senate Bill 1011, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Harper of Surprise, comes on the heels of passage last year of a bill that allows guns to be stored inside locked car trunks on public college campuses.

The latest bill is already generating debate among faculty, who are trying to figure out whether the legislation has legs. Faculty groups at Arizona have not yet taken positions.

“It's on our radar, and we're watching it with great attention and scrutiny,” said Rojann Alpers, an ASU professor and chair of the university's academic council.

Although the UA Faculty Senate has not voted, chair Wanda Howell said the senate wouldn't support the latest bill given the faculty's opposition to the previous law change that allows people to keep guns locked inside their cars on campus.

Since the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead, a handful of states have sought to put legislation in place that relaxes college firearm laws. Most states still prohibit guns on campus.

The latest Arizona bill is a narrower version of legislation introduced two years ago by then-State Sen. Karen Johnson. The Mesa Republican sought to allow firearms on college campuses as long as the person carrying the weapon was at least 21 years old and had a concealed-weapons permit.

Johnson believed some of the college tragedies in other states could have been prevented or minimized if people had the ability to fight back. That bill never made it into law. Critics of more lenient gun laws say permitting guns would make campuses more dangerous and could create confusion among law enforcement if an incident were to occur.

Harper said an Arizona university professor, who feels like staff are “sitting ducks” on campus, brought the issue to him. He said his intention is to limit the bill to college faculty and not expand it to students and other staff.

He believes the legislation will make college campuses safer by deterring criminals. It would eliminate what is essentially now a “defense-free zone” with only campus police permitted to carry guns.

“Making criminals think twice about being predatory in any situation can only be good for the faculty,” he said.

Harper said the bill is expected to be heard next week in the Senate's Public Safety and Human Services Committee. He believes the legislation has enough votes to pass committee.

—Anne Ryman

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