A bill in the Arizona Legislature would allow students to carry non-lethal weapons on campus.
Current legislation permits some types of pepper spray on campus so long as they don’t contain oleoresin capsicum, the active ingredient in most pepper sprays. HB 2172 seeks to change that by allowing students to carry any non-lethal weapons on campus in the name of self defense.
Non-lethal, as described by the bill, applies to anything that would explicitly repel an assailant with a low probability of lasting damage to them or the environment. This would include TASERs, stun guns, knives and mace, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert).
Some say that ASU campuses, which is monitored by police and features emergency response lights, is already secured enough. Others think the legislation should be passed with campuses in more urban environments, like the downtown Phoenix campus, in mind.
The current legal status of pepper sprays and similar devices on campus is “just enough to make people who don’t pay attention happy,” Grantham said.
“Obviously crimes are being committed,” he said. “We need to offer solutions.”
A cautious approach
A similar bill, HB 2072, was introduced in 2016. It would have allowed for students to carry firearms on campus in the name of self-defense. The bill, which never even made it to committee, sparked an overwhelmingly negative response from the student body and an official opposition from USG.
This time, however, students have been more receptive to the idea. Cole Dziawura, a freshman statistics major, said the bill could help students on campus better defend themselves.
“I feel like it would be especially helpful downtown,” said Dziawura. “There's so much access to the public for people near campus.”
Other students weren't so sure about the bill's effectiveness.
“I understand the need, but personally I don’t lean any which way about (the bill),” said SuElen Rivera, a journalism junior.
Kat Chapman, president of ASU's downtown chapter of I Am That Girl, a female empowerment organization, said students should be allowed to carry such non-lethal weapons on campus for self-defense. Chapman, a journalism and women and gender studies senior, said the bill could especially help those on the downtown Phoenix campus because it isn't very insulated from the surrounding community.
"Generally, I think it would be a good thing, especially for people with night classes who may have to walk far distances from the classroom the their car, the shuttle or their home," Chapman said.
HB 2172 is will be heard in committee on Jan. 29. If it passes, the chamber will vote in the coming four weeks, Grantham said.
USG Tempe is still gauging the response from the student body in order to form and lobby a position, said Vice President of Policy Kelsey Wilson.