House panels to debate campus gun bill

A bill that would allow students and faculty to carry firearms on campus is continuing to make its way through the state Legislature.

Despite seemingly large opposition, Senate Bill 1467 passed in the Senate 21-7 on March 14. Members of the House reviewed the bill Tuesday.

If the bill passes it would make Arizona the second state, after Utah, to have legislation that prevents state college and university governing boards from prohibiting both concealed and openly carried firearms on campuses.

Utah’s legislation goes a bit further than SB 1467 by requiring that firearms be permitted inside school buildings. But Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, the bill’s prime sponsor, said in a press release he believes the bill would have passed in the Senate with similar requirements, but may not have passed in the House.

Gould said he would take what he could get for now and that the version the Senate passed is at least a step in the right direction.

Proponents of the bill say its purpose is to help students protect themselves while on college campuses. Without it, they argue, students enter college campuses with no way of defending themselves from someone who would want to hurt them.

Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, who voted against the bill, said in an email he disagrees with the notion that the legislation would take the state in the right direction. He said he worries allowing firearms on campus would jeopardize student safety.

“Young adults who are in a learning environment don’t need to be sitting in class thinking about how there could be somebody with a gun right next to them or people with guns around them on campus while they are trying to focus on their education,” Meza said.

Justice studies senior Derek Yu said he supports the bill because of the length of time it takes for police to respond to emergencies on campus.

“The ASU police are here to help us and protect us, but there are limitations to what they can do,” Yu said. “If students were allowed to conceal carry in school campuses, action can be taken faster and more rapidly, thus resulting in fewer casualties.”

Yu also believes that not allowing students and faculty to carry firearms makes college campuses ideal targets for people who want to hurt a lot of defenseless people in a short amount of time.

“It makes students like myself easy targets,” Yu said. “These anti-guns-on-campus laws protect the criminals and murderers who choose to shoot-up schools because they know that law-abiding students do not have firearms to counter their actions.”

Jonathan Stanley, a computer systems engineering junior, also feels that having guns on campus wouldn’t be bad.

Stanley said he didn’t think staff or students being allowed to have guns on campus could have stopped events like the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings.

“[But] I do think that the damage could have been limited,” Stanley said. “People would have been able to either shoot the shooters, or at least slow their progress down, allowing more people to escape to safety.”

Opponents of the bill have said allowing students or faculty to carry firearms on campus could lead to violence over grades, or turn small arguments into shootouts.

Yu pointed out that this is just speculation and said he doesn’t think simply allowing guns on campus would bring out that kind of gun-related violence.

“If a student did receive a bad grade and wanted to retaliate, they would do so anyways, firearm or no firearm, legal or illegal,” Yu said. “If a person truly wanted to harm someone, they would do so without taking laws into consideration.”

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