Governor uncertain over future course of Arizona State Guard

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer said just because she signed legislation letting her create an Arizona State Guard for any reason at all does not mean she intends to actually do that.

"I don't know exactly what the intent of the legislation was,' Brewer said after approving the measure crafted by Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise.

But the governor said she figured it could not hurt.

"Certainly, I'm not going to refuse the opportunity in case we need to have our own state guard,' she said.

Harper, however, said he sees the measure as the first step to Arizona having its own force, under the control of the governor, who could be called to help secure the border.

"I think we need a volunteer force to help Arizona in its hour of need,' he said.

The Arizona Constitution already empowers the governor to call out the "unorganized militia' of the state. It consists of all "capable citizens' between 18 and 45, and those who have "declared the intention' to become citizens. And existing law already permits the governor to "establish an armed force for the safety and protection of the lives and property of the citizens of the state' when the National Guard has been called to federal duty.

Harper's legislation says the governor can call out that force "for any other reason' she believes is necessary.

He conceded there is no money to actually do any of that.

"But it's another tool in the tool box,' Harper said. And he said if National Guard troops actually do leave the border "she might take the extraordinary step of establishing the State Guard by executive order and using what she has in the emergency fund.'

That, however, is not going to happen.

"I don't know how we're going to implement that,' Brewer said. She said the legislation provides no funds to help set it up. And the governor said there are "not really any directions' on how it would operate.

Harper said he foresees volunteers emerging, with their own equipment, willing to patrol the border or do any other duties as assigned.

That, however, still leaves the question of training -- or lack of it.

"Certainly, before we move forward, I think there would have to be some kind of rules and regulations and possibly legislation,' Brewer said. "And, yes, I would be concerned about (members) being trained.'

Harper said he did try to get some money put into the legislation to create at least one full-time position, under the state adjutant general, who would be responsible. That, however, did not happen.

But Harper said he believes that poses no obstacle to training.

"There are an awful lot of people leaving active duty (military) that are more than capable of training other volunteers,' he said.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said that's only part of the problem.

He said there is nothing in the legislation that requires a background check of those who step forward. And with Harper considering this new force to patrol the border, Gallego said that creates a dangerous situation.

"We have seen some our border militia groups that have already been infiltrated by people that are from a racist persuasion,' he said.

Harper, however, said this governor -- or any future governor -- remains free to mandate background checks by executive order.

Brewer said she sees all these issues as academic, as she has no intent to actually use her new powers to create the force.

"But certainly I felt comfortable signing it,' she said.

"Going down the road, who knows?' the governor continued. "Maybe it is something that will be needed.'


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