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Campus firearm bills reintroduced in Legislature

ARMED: Gun salesman Christopher Beeman handles a revolver at Arizona Firearms, Collectibles and Pawn in Tempe. Photo by Sierra Smith.
ARMED: Gun salesman Christopher Beeman handles a revolver at Arizona Firearms, Collectibles and Pawn in Tempe. Photo by Sierra Smith.

Two bills back on the docket at the state Legislature this year could change the face of on-campus security.

Rep. Jack Harper, a Republican from Surprise, is sponsoring two bills this year — one to let college faculty carry concealed weapons and another to let both students and faculty carry weapons on campus.

House Bill 2001 would allow all faculty members to carry concealed weapons on community college or university campuses. A faculty member could refer to a professor, an associate professor, assistant professor, instructor or lecturer.

“[Faculty] should be allowed to defend themselves,” said Harper, the bill’s primary sponsor. The lawmaker is confident this bill will pass despite his previous efforts.

Harper presented the same bill to the Legislature last February as a senator.  The bill was held in committees and never made it to the Senate floor.

Harper has also proposed another bill, House Bill 2014, which would allow both students and faculty members to carry concealed weapons as long as they have valid permits.

In wake of the recent Tucson shooting involving the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the question has been raised whether the tragedy will affect the outcome of state gun legislation.

“Since [the shooting] just recently happened I really believe it can have an impact on the outcome,” political science junior Reyna Montoya said. “If the bill was announced in a couple months then it may pass.”

Montoya said the passage of such legislation could hurt the University’s recruitment of students.

“New students can feel scared,” she said.

Political science professor Rodolfo Espino said if anything, the Tucson tragedy will only slow down the bill’s passage. His concerns were also toward the students and comfort of the faculty.

“I would ask Harper ‘Are [teachers] really the best people capable of handling a gun? We’re not trained for that,’” Espino said. “We have a police force trained and I put my trust and faith in them to have them handle security.”

Harper said the idea of the bill came from individual professors.

There are some professors who are tired of being “sitting ducks” in these situations, he said. Harper expects HB 2001 to pass this session.

Espino said he would rather be thinking about teaching than whether he has a gun on him.

Aside from his thoughts on concealed weapons and faculty, he said concealed weapons and students are just as concerning.

“Knowing there is a gun in the classroom will affect my job as an educator,” he said.

Espino said during a class discussion, certain topics can be “touchy,” and oftentimes his students will speak with passion.

“I prefer to have that [passion] without the worry of someone packing heat,” he said.

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