AZ Attorney General looks to ensuring student safety
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has announced a thoughtful proposal intended to reduce the risk of another horrific school massacre. He is joined by Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Sheriff Tom Sheahan of Mohave County and Sheriff Joe Dedman of Apache County. Other Sheriffs are also considering participation in the proposed program.
The proposal is that any school that wishes to do so, may designate the principal or another administrator, to receive training in the use of firearms and how to handle emergencies such as the recent Sandy Hook School slayings in Newtown, Connecticut. Training would be provided free of charge by personnel of the Attorney General’s Office and the cooperating Sheriff’s Offices. The designated individual would then be authorized to keep a securely locked firearm, and would have adequate means of communication to be alerted to an emergency in any part of the school.
“It may not be possible to afford a police officer in every school,” Horne said. “In that case, the next best solution is to have one person in the school trained to handle firearms, to handle emergency situations, and possessing a firearm in a secure location. This proposal is analogous to arming pilots on planes.”
Some Arizona schools have sworn officers, referred to as School Resource Officers (SROs) currently on campus, but budgetary constraints have impacted the ability to expand the program.
Rep. David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista) has agreed to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to put Attorney General Horne’s voluntary participation plan in place. Horne emphasized that only one person in the school will be designated. That person will be evaluated for fitness for this program. Training will involve not only firearms, but also “use of force” laws, defensive tactics, judgment, simulations, and properly securing the firearm.
The most recent Gallup poll, conducted after the Newtown massacre, indicated Americans want trained school officials armed to protect children. They rated the effectiveness of three potential actions higher than the semi-automatic weapon ban proposed by Democrats and Barack Obama.
According to the survey, the most popular option chosen by respondents is boosting police presence at schools; 53 percent of respondents said more police would be “very effective” at reducing acts of mass murder, while another 34 percent said it would be “somewhat effective.” Forty-seven percent say decreasing media and video game gun violence would be “very effective.”
In the wake of the shooting other states are also reacting. Among them, South Carolina is introducing similar legislation. In Utah more than 200 teachers recently signed up for free concealed-weapons training offered by the Utah Shooting Sports Council. A Texas district has allowed teachers to carry guns since 2008. Michigan state lawmakers passed a similar bill — one day before the Newtown school shooting — that would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools. It was vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder.