House Minority Leader Chad Campbell’s ideas for preventing a mass school shooting in Arizona include more cops in schools, more money pumped into the public-health system and stricter gun laws.
With a school resource officer and an award winning school counselor to help him make his case at a Jan. 9 press conference, Campbell said the cost of his 12-point plan would be $261 million. That would come from cutting a prized school-choice program favored by Republicans – the School Tuition Organization tax credit – as well as changes to tax laws and money from a $676 million budget surplus.
Campbell offered details of the many components of the plan, but did not comment on how he would push it through a Republican-controlled Legislature that in recent years has made spending cuts he wants restored or passed laws he wants repealed.
“I’m not down here to fight an ideological battle with the Republicans, I’m down here to talk about good public policy,” Campbell said.
Campbell came up with the plan in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 elementary school children and six adults.
Campbell said he hasn’t garnered any Republican support, but he has spoken to some, whom he wouldn’t name. His announcement came a day before Sen. Linda Lopez, a Tucson Democrat, unveiled her plan, which will include universal background checks for gun purchases, the repeal of a law that requires police to sell guns they’ve seized in crimes to gun dealers, and a ban on high-capacity clips.
Gov. Jan Brewer has said she isn’t in support of gun control, but she is open to more funding for police in schools.
Campbell said he has the greatest hope for increased funding for the School Safety Program, which put police officers in schools and was gutted in fiscal year 2011 with the elimination of an annual $6.7 million general fund appropriation. Campbell is proposing a $17 million a year increase to the program, which already receives $7.8 million in voter mandated funds.
Campbell said Attorney General Tom Horne’s idea of arming principals and teachers is ridiculous, and more funding for SROs has the support of the school establishment, police and Republicans.
Det. Rob Katzaroff, a SRO for 11 years in Scottsdale and vice president of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association, said it is the position of SROs that they are the best equipped and trained to provide security.
Campbell said he also wants to double the number of school counselors in the state because they often prevent school violence.
His plan includes $161 million in restored funds to the public health system that have been cut to balance budgets during a brutal economic downturn. First, Campbell wants to provide Medicaid coverage for people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
“This will cover people under mental-health care going into the AHCCCS system, and if you don’t do this you’re going to have an entire group of people in this population that do not get the services they need,” he said.
He also wants $23 million to restore funding to 2009 levels for Seriously Mentally Ill people not covered by Medicaid.
The gun control portion of his plan balances the need for protecting communities and protecting the Second Amendment, he said.
“Unless you’re a criminal or a person dealing with mental-health issues, there’s not a gun owner in the state who has to worry about this taking a gun out of your hands,” Campbell said.
The plan calls for background checks for purchases at gun shows and person-to-person purchases of “assault” weapons. He also wants to require training for concealed weapons permits and keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people.
Campbell’s other proposals include:
• Establish a $20 million school safety fund for grants to schools;
• Create an infrastructure for prevention and risk assessment training for schools;
• Require each school to create risk assessment and prevention plans and update them annually
• Make it easier for local governments to dispose of weapons that have been seized or forfeited.