PHOENIX (AP) — A group that advocates for pro-gun, state legislation said Wednesday guns should be allowed in Arizona public schools to provide protection against shootings such as the one in Connecticut.
“It’s long past time to, at the very least, allow our school faculty and staff the option to be trained and armed,” the Arizona Citizens Defense League said in a statement. “Only then will they be capable of dealing with a situation like this.”
Amid public debate over what to do in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the league is “now looking at things that can be done to heighten security in schools,” spokesman Charles Heller said during an earlier interview. “We hadn’t been before.”
Arizona law now generally bans taking guns on school grounds.
The statement by the league decried the violence in Connecticut and stopped short of announcing a 2013 legislative proposal to allow guns on campuses.
Heller said his group is considering options, but he couldn’t discuss specifics. The session starts in mid-January, and no proposed bills filed as yet deal with gun issues.
A teachers union leader said everybody wants to protect students but allowing school personnel to have guns on campuses would pose safety and security threats, partly by opening the door to unintended consequences.
“That’s the last thing on their minds, to be carrying firearms in close proximity to students,” said Arizona Education President Andrew Morrill. “That’s not going to help.”
Gun control proposals went nowhere in the Republican-led Arizona Legislature after the January 2011 shooting that wounded then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.
In the next two legislative sessions, state lawmakers twice approved bills to allow guns in many public buildings without airport-style security and once to allow them on higher-education campuses.
However, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed all three versions of those two bills that reached her desk. She said in May her veto of the latest such bill reflected public unease.
Matthew Benson, a Brewer spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the league’s statement.
Arizona has permissive gun laws and a Wild West heritage. Guns can be carried openly, sometimes jolting newcomers, particularly in urban areas.