Two Mesa lawmakers are crafting legislation to give teachers and some students a chance to shoot back if they’re fired upon.
The proposals by Sen. Karen Johnson and Rep. Russell Pearce would allow anyone who has obtained a state permit to carry a concealed weapon onto the campus of a public school, something that is now a crime under state law. It also would overrule similar policies at community colleges and state universities.
Johnson said the current law sends a message to criminals and others that if they want to go shoot up a campus, they’re likely to be the only ones armed.
“These gun-free zones are just open areas,” she said. “And so if a kid gets mad or crazed or some weirdo decides to go into school, he knows there’s going to be nobody there to stop them.”
Pearce said schools have become “no self-defense zones.”
But some East Valley educators indicated that Johnson and Pearce have not taken their concerns into consideration.
“In my opinion, it’s too easy for anyone to get a gun license,” Kurt Decke, principal of Mountain Shadows Education Center in Apache Junction, said about the proposed law. “Knowing that, I would feel uncomfortable if some of those people could bring a gun on my campus.”
Genisha Mills, a teacher at Chandler’s Jacobson Elementary School, said, “I don’t think it would make me feel safe.
“To know you have a gun on campus... It would change the whole idea of school being a safe home-away-from-home,” she said.
Johnson said changing the law might deter someone who means harm at a school from deciding to start shooting.
“This way nobody knows who has a concealed weapon,” she said of her legislation. “But at least they’ll know that somebody could.”
Lawmakers’ reactions to the bill were mixed.
“It’s a dangerous idea,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix.
But Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, said she might be able to support such a plan — but only if the right to carry guns were limited to teachers.
“I can see where she’s coming from in light of the tragedies that we’ve had on the campuses,” Aboud said, referring to incidents at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School in Colorado in which gunmen killed students.
She said, though, that parents would be rightly concerned for their children if other students were also carrying guns.
That could happen under either plan only if the student were 21, the minimum legal age for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Tribune writer Andrea Natekar contributed to this report.