Calling it a matter of constitutional rights, the House of Representatives voted to allow parents and others to drive onto school campuses with loaded weapons in their cars.
The 31-27 party-line vote for HB2693 in the Republican-controlled chamber came amid pleas from some lawmakers, who said they feel safer for themselves and their children when dropping them off and picking them up. Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, said she can attest to that based on personal experience.
“I know that if others have felt that, where you felt harassment or you felt that others were going to violate their order of protection – you wanted to be able to protect yourself,” she said. “I was also that person that was dropping my kids off at school every day.”
Cobb pointed out that current law allows guns in vehicles on campus, but only if they’re not loaded.
“I would not have wanted to stop a block away, unload my gun, go on to the school grounds and then come back and reload it again,” she said. “Using guns for most of my life, I know that’s when accidents happen.”
That understanding was underlined by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who is a former police officer.
“Go to many police locker rooms and you’ll see holes in the lockers and the walls because of accidental discharges during loading and unloading,” he told colleagues.
And Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, said the issue comes down to allowing parents to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
But Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said the Second Amendment is not absolute. And Rep. Gerae Peten, D-Goodyear, questioned the wisdom of people coming on to campus with loaded weapons.
“A lot of parents come to school when they are angry, irate, irrational, inebriated,” she said.
Rep. Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, offered his own take on why the measure makes no sense.
“If you feel unsafe on school grounds without a weapon and you’re going to leave your children there, then perhaps there’s a bigger issue that we need to address with our broader community,” he said. And DeGrazia said if people cannot load or unload guns, or get a round in or out of the chamber, without endangering themselves or others, “then perhaps we need to look at more training for folks who do carry.”
But Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said that misses the point of the legislation.
She said the only people who are obeying the law right now and unloading their weapons before dropping off their children on school grounds are the ones who obey the law.
“And to assume the type of people who follow the current rules are the same people who would break a much larger rule, like murder or assault with a deadly weapon, is fairly ridiculous,” Udall said. “People who are affected by the current rules are not the people we need to be worried about.”
Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, lashed out at foes, saying they really are not looking at the actual issue.
“The votes against it would be against anything that had the word ‘gun,’ ‘firearm,’ ‘protection,’” he said. “In fact, children probably feel safer knowing their mom or dad is prepared to defend them against the evil-doer who comes on campus.”
Nothing in HB2693 permits guns, loaded or otherwise, into school buildings.
The measure now goes to the Senate.