Mon, Feb. 24

Group thinks teachers should be allowed to carry guns

PHOENIX -- Two Arizona gun-rights groups said Wednesday that lawmakers should consider letting specially trained teachers and administrators carry guns into public schools to protect students against future attacks.

Ken Rineer, president of Gun Owners of Arizona, said there is no reason to continue such a ban.

"I think we've had more campus school shootings since enactment of the law than before,' he said of the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, first approved in 1990. Arizona has a separate ban on guns on school campuses to deal with exceptions to the federal statute.

And the Arizona Citizens Defense League said the news coverage of the shootings in Connecticut that killed 26, including 20 children, misses the point.

"The main issue here is not that a deranged individual gained access to a firearm, as there is very little anyone could do to prevent that,' the organization's statement read. "It's that anyone who could have stopped his rampage could not gain access to a firearm.'

The bottom line, said spokesman Charles Heller, is more people with guns creates a safer environment.

"You shoot the attacker and stop the attack,' he said. "It stops people from getting killed.'

Both Heller and Rineer said they are not advocating arming every teacher and staffer. Instead, they said, those with special training should have immediate access to weapons should the need arise.

"Let's experiment with this a little bit,' Rineer said, perhaps having some staffers go through the same training as a federal air marshal.

"Lock up an AR-15 (rifle) or something in their principal's office so if something breaks loose they can get the weapon out of the safe and defend children,' he said.

Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, said he wants a go-slow approach to any changes in the law to avoid unintended consequences.

"We know what we want to stop,' said Murphy, who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee this coming session. "But are the proposals that are being made, whatever they are, actually going to accomplish that goal or are they just going to make us feel good that we did something?'

Murphy said he does want to look at existing Texas law that gives individual school districts the right to allow or ban guns. He said this law has been in effect for about four years, meaning there has been some chance to see how it works and whether there are any downsides.

But Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said any ideas about arming teachers are based on a false assumption.

"I don't believe that more guns creates a safer school place,' she said.

Lopez is instead pursuing a different path in the wake of last week's attack. She wants not only better training of people to identify those with mental health problems but also a renewed ban on high-capacity magazines, limiting the number of rounds that can be loaded at one time.

And she wants the state to require background checks on everyone carrying a gun, not just those who obtain their weapons from commercial dealers. That would end the exemption that now exists for person-to-person sales, an exemption that also applies to gun shows.

Heller, however, said the last thing legislators should consider is additional restrictions on who can carry weapons and where they can bring them.

"Why would you want to lessen security?' he said. "Only people who can't read or can't think believe that would help.'

The possibility of permitting guns in schools is getting a noncommittal response from Gov. Jan Brewer.

"The governor would need to see the specific legislation before she could take a position on something like that,' said press aide Matthew Benson. He said Brewer has no preconceived thoughts on the issue.

"The fact of the matter is the governor is a strong but sensible supporter of the Second Amendment,' he said. "She has a record of balancing her support of gun rights with public safety,' pointing to her veto of a bill allowing guns in all public buildings and another permitting weapons along public rights of way on college and university campuses.

Other governors, however, are staking out positions.

Bob McDonnell of Virginia said he's willing to consider it.

"If someone had been armed, there would have been a possibility to stop the person from coming into the school,' he said Tuesday in a radio call-in show when asked about the Connecticut shooting. McDonnell said while there is usually a "knee-jerk reaction' against that idea of guns on campus, "I think we should have a discussion about it.'

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry said it may be time to revisit the ability of schools to refuse to allow guns on campuses and simply make that a right under state law. He said Monday those with a permit "should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state.'

But Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week vetoed legislation which would have repealed a statewide ban on guns in schools and instead left the question to individual districts. Snyder said he was concerned it did not give schools enough power to keep their campuses gun-free.

And Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy said he wants Congress to reinstate the law banning assault-style weapons that also included a limit of no more than 10 rounds of ammunition in a single magazine or clip. "You don't hunt deer with these things,' he told CNN.

But both Heller and Rineer scoffed at any suggestion that having fewer bullets in a gun or rifle will reduce mass killings.

"Only people who know nothing about guns would say that,' Heller said.

"Anybody who knows what they're doing with a gun could change magazines while they're shooting,' he continued. "They don't even have to slow down.'

Rineer said any such restriction has to consider that not all gun owners are the same.

"A paraplegic needs a firearm that holds more than 10 rounds because they can't get to their ammo,' he said.

Heller stressed that his organization has not yet decided what legislation, if any, to advance in the upcoming session. And he said ideas go beyond laws on guns.

For example, he said, it may be appropriate to consider "hardening' school buildings to ensure that only those who belong there can get it. Heller also said schools should consider new technology, like panic buttons and video cameras to help those responding to an incident.

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