Lawmakers’ allegiance to gun lobby, not children

Guest Opinion//March 11, 2022

Lawmakers’ allegiance to gun lobby, not children

Guest Opinion//March 11, 2022

I grew up in Arizona. I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school. I spent most of my life here, except for college and combat tours in Afghanistan with the Army, and I always knew I would return home to Arizona.

Now my daughter is in school, and I serve on the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board. My priority is to ensure my daughter and all children in our district grow up in a safe Arizona. Unfortunately, not enough people in our state Legislature share the same goals. Too many of our lawmakers haven’t put our children first. Instead, they let their allegiance to the gun lobby run our state.

Aaron Marquez

Arizona lawmakers are pushing dangerous bills that encourage gun violence. During this legislative session, lawmakers advanced a bill to require kids in public schools to go through the National Rifle Association’s “Eddie Eagle” program. This program was deemed ineffective by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It shifts the responsibility of gun safety to children rather than their parents and guardians. Nonetheless, one lawmaker, Rep. John Kavanagh, went so far as to threaten to take away children from their parents if they opted out of this faulty program.

The Army taught me the importance of training, safety, and accountability when it comes to firearms. Naturally, we should always place the responsibility of gun safety on adults – not children. And we should train parents and guardians to keep firearms securely stored so that children never have access to deadly weapons.

In addition to backing gun lobby programs, lawmakers are also pushing legislation to force guns in public places. If passed, the bill would effectively force public officials to allow guns in public buildings and at events held on public property across the state, including many places where guns would pose a serious risk, such as government buildings, concerts, demonstrations, and more. Allowing guns in government buildings and demonstrations only encourages escalation.

Research conducted between January 2020 and November 2021 by the Everytown Support Fund, in partnership with the Armed Conflict and Event Data Project (ACLED), showed that armed demonstrations are more than six times as likely to turn violent or destructive compared to unarmed demonstrations. In that period, there were at least 610 armed demonstrations across 44 states, with nearly 97% of all armed demonstrations taking place in public spaces and over 100 armed demonstrations reported at Capitol buildings and vote counting facilities.

Shockingly, these bills aren’t the only reckless legislation moving in our state House. Lawmakers are also trying to force loaded guns in our school parking lots. With so many bills moving that threaten public safety, one would think lawmakers would at least hold a hearing on legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, but unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Arizona has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, scoring only 8.5 out of 100 for gun law strength while maintaining a gun violence rate well above the national average. This score should be embarrassing for all Arizona residents. Despite this, state lawmakers continue to weaken the state’s firearm laws. So far, during this legislative session, our lawmakers and Governor Doug Ducey have failed our children and communities when it comes to keeping them safe.

It’s time for our leaders in the state Legislature to support gun safety bills that would reduce gun deaths and save the lives of women and children in our state, starting with disarming domestic abusers through legislation to keep guns out of their hands. Polling shows that Arizonans support stronger gun laws by an overwhelming 8 to 1 margin.

As I serve my community as a school board member, my work is to make sure kids in Arizona, like my daughter, are safe in and outside of school – especially from gun violence. As parents and community members, we shouldn’t have to worry about whether our children will make it home from school, a friend’s house, the movie theater, or anywhere else. We are all responsible for the safety of our children, and we need our lawmakers to do their part during this legislative session for our kids.

Aaron Marquez is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, a combat veteran, and a Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board member.