A bill to allow school employees to carry guns in schools received the preliminary approval of the state Senate today, while another Republican gun measure appears to lack the votes to clear the chamber.
Sen. Rich Crandall’s SB1325 would arm certain school employees at schools with fewer than 600 students that are more than 30 minutes and 20 miles from a law enforcement agency.
The school must also lack a school resource officer, and employees who carry concealed firearms would have to obtain permits from the local school board.
SB1325 was approved by the Senate’s Committee of the Whole with two amendments. Crandall, R-Mesa, made a change that specifies what type of firearm would be allowed to be carried in schools. No rifles or shotguns would be allowed, only handguns or pistols. And Crandall supported an amendment pitched by Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, to require schools keep a secure gun locker on campus to be used to store the weapons when they’re not being carried by a school official.
Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, said it was about time the Legislature did something to make students safer.
“School safety seems to be like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody’s done anything about it,” McComish said.
The bill must still be approved on Third Reading by the Senate, and is not yet scheduled for a vote.
Democrats maligned the measure as an inadequate attempt at improving school safety. If approved, Crandall’s bill would be the first school safety measure passed by the Arizona senate in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, said it would be a mistake to approve a measure to place guns in schools as the Legislature’s first response to a school shooting. Lawmakers have other options at their disposal, such as providing more funding for school resource officers, she noted.
Gallardo warned that the bill would open the door for future bills to place firearms in even more schools.
In the Senate’s Republican Caucus meeting on Tuesday, Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, said it was his understanding the measure was a way of getting a foot in the door to allow guns in schools.
“We don’t need this type of legislation,” Gallardo testified Wednesday. “The unintended consequence is someone is going to get killed, and it’s going to be a student.”
Another gun measure never got a chance at a vote on the Senate floor. Sen. Kelli Ward’s bill to prohibit the enforcement of new federal gun laws in Arizona was retained, and may not reappear on the Senate’s agendas.
Ward’s SB1112 would prevent federal gun laws limiting semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines from being enforced in Arizona. The bill cleared the Senate Rules Committee on the condition that Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, work with lawmakers on amendments to the bill that would solve concerns that the measure would be struck down as unconstitutional.
But the lone amendment proposed by Ward did not answer all of the Senate rules attorney’s concerns, and Senate President Andy Biggs told reporters that some Republicans would vote against the bill.