Sen. Rich Crandall’s SB1325 passed the Senate on a 17-11 party line vote, and now moves to the House. If approved by both chambers, the measure would allow certain school employees to carry concealed firearms in schools with fewer than 600 students that are more than 30 minutes and 20 miles from the nearest law enforcement agency.
To qualify, a school must also lack a school resource officer. And employees would have to obtain approval to carry a concealed firearm from the local school board.
Crandall, R-Mesa, touted the bill’s history in Texas, where similar laws allowing concealed firearms in rural schools have been in place without incident for six years, he said.
The firearms, which must be handguns or pistols, would have to be carried at all times by the staff member authorized to do so or be kept in a secure gun locker, which the school must provide on campus. Crandall added an amendment to the bill in the Committee of the Whole forbidding rifles or shotguns from serving as concealed carry weapons in schools.
Senate Democrats warned the measure would lead to guns being allowed in urban school districts and was an ineffective way of improving school safety that focused on only a portion of the state’s schools.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said House Republicans are considering amending the measure to expand to all schools in Arizona. And Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, questioned whether the cost of insuring schools where teachers can carry firearms would be better spent on adding school resource officers, a school safety measure that hasn’t gotten anywhere in either chamber.
“I wish we had had more time to come up with something that would truly work for the whole state,” said Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix.