In response to the massacre at a Newtown Conn. elementary school, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is proposing a program that would train and arm one school official for every campus.
With support from Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan and Apache County Sheriff Joe Dedman, Horne is proposing a new law aimed at reducing the risk of a repeat of the Newtown tragedy.
The proposal is that any school that wishes to do so, may designated the Principal or another designee to receive training in the use of firearms and how to handle emergencies such as that which occurred in Newtown.
The training would be provided by personnel of the Attorney General’s Office, and of the cooperating Sheriff’s offices.
According to Horne’s plan, the training would come at no cost to the schools. The designated person, which will be no more than one person per school campus, would then be authorized to keep a firearm locked in a secure place, and would have adequate communication to be alerted to an emergency in any part of the school.
Horne did not release details on where the firearm would be locked, or how an emergency alert system would be established to notify the trained person to take action.
“The ideal solution would be to have an armed police officer in each school,” Horne said. “Some of our schools have such officers, referred to as School Resource Officers (SRO). They are not only there to handle emergencies, but also make friends with the students, and the students learn that police officers are people one can confide in, and are not the enemy.
“However, budget considerations have caused the Legislature to cut back on SRO programs. It may not be possible to afford a police officer in every school. In that case, the next best solution is to have o ne person in the school trained to handle firearms, to handle emergency situations, and possessing a firearm in a secure location. This proposal is analogous to arming pilots on planes.”
Babeu agreed that just as it's important to arm pilots, it's important to train and arm school administrators and designated teachers to protect themselves, staff and students.
"The NRA (National Rifle Association) is correct, we need a cop in every school," Babeu said. "We also need to train and arm school administrators and designated teachers to protect themselves and our school children," said Babeu. "Even with an office on campus, some of these schools are quite large. The officer can't be everywhere on campus and having trained and armed administrators and designated teachers could help limit and contain the active shooter."
With calls for new gun laws, Babeu stressed the problem isn't with the guns, but instead, with the people.
"The reality is there will be little if any change in gun laws, which is not the solution anyway" he said. "We have over 20,000 laws and regulations on firearms, yet none of them prevented these mass killings. Criminals, mentally ill mass killer and terrorists do not follow current law and they certainly will not follow any future laws."
According to Horne’s office, Rep. David Gown, R-District 30, has agreed to introduce legislation to amend Arizona law needed to make this kind of proposal consistent with the law. However, Gowan’s office could not confirm the state representative from Cochise County has agreed to the plan.
Horne’s office calls the proposal a “golden mean between two extremes.” One extreme is to allow all teachers to bring guns to school, which could create more dangers than it prevents. The other extreme, according to Horne’s office, is to do nothing, which everyone would regret if a preventable incident like Newtown would occur in the future.
Under Horne’s proposal, no school district or school will be required to participate unless it chose to do so.
The person designated to carry a gun on campus will be evaluated for fitness for this program. Training will involve not only firearms, but also “use of force” laws, defensive tactics, judgment, simulations, and properly securing the firearm.