As a new semester begins at Arizona State University next fall, students will swarm onto campus armed with textbooks, notebooks and pens — but will firearms be included in the educational arsenal?
That may be the situation if Arizona legislators pass the multiple bills that would permit students and teachers to carry concealed weapons onto university and community college campuses.
One of these bills, Senate Bill 1467, has already passed through the legislature and is awaiting Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature.
The bill would prohibit an educational institution from banning weapons on public rights-of-way. The bill was originally intended to allow concealed weapons throughout an educational institution, but it was later amended to apply more narrowly.
There are several other bills which would lessen restrictions on weapons. These include House Bill 2001, which would allow faculty members to carry a concealed weapon onto a university or college campus; HB 2014, which would prohibit a university or community college from banning the possession of concealed weapons by those with proper permits; and HB 2479, which proposes the same legislation.
The Associated Students of Arizona State University Downtown opposes these bills.
In a statement released Feb. 4, ASASUD said, “Allowing concealed carry on Arizona college and university campuses would … actively shift the burden of self-preservation from hired campus and public safety officers to the students and faculty, forcing their attention away from teaching, learning and discovery…”
ASAUSD President Christian Vasquez supported this sentiment, noting ASASUD is continuing its efforts against the bills by engaging with other university organizations like ASU Parents Association and Alumni Association.
The ASU University Senate announced its opposition to SB 1467 and firearms on campus in a resolution passed Feb. 2. The resolution stated that the University Senate deemed the bill to be a “clear danger to the safety, security and sense of well-being” to all ASU campuses.
John Pickens, ASU Police chief, has also publicly announced opposition to the bills alongside Anthony Daykin, the chief of police for the University of Arizona.
Several Downtown students were apprehensive about the legislation, finding the bills dangerous and unnecessary. Sarah Banker, a junior studying anthropology, said she assumes teachers would be responsible if they were carrying guns, but she was less comfortable with college-age students carrying them.
However, there is a presence of students who support firearms on ASU campuses. Tom O’Brian, a sophomore history major, believes allowing firearms on campus would make students, faculty and staff safer.
“If I can keep myself safe and other students safe, that tops everything,” O’Brian said.
O’Brian plans to re-establish Students for Concealed Carry on Campus @ ASU, a currently defunct Facebook group, but so far he has not had time. The group, which has 128 members, states in its info section that it has two functions: to “dispel the common myths and misconceptions about concealed carry” and to convince state legislators and school administrators to allow students the same right to carry firearms on campus as they have in other public areas.
Although ASU has a police force, O’Brian argues they cannot be everywhere at once.
Associate professor Fran Matera is uneasy about the possibility of guns in her classrooms but said she understands the rationale behind the legislation.
“I would like to believe on a university campus we would find other means to resolve conflicts,” she said.
Matera added there had been debate about the legislation in the Faculty Senate, resulting in mixed feelings.
“Firearms are part of the solution, but in the right context and hands,” Matera said.
Senator Nancy Barto, who voted for SB 1467, supports guns as a solution and favors further gun leniency.
“The most logical response is to allow people to carry,” she said. “Guns will act as a deterrent and help protect law-abiding citizens.”
In response to ASU and other Arizona universities already having a security force, Barto said that for complete safety, universities would need a security force in every classroom, and no one wants that. The bill “points out the fact that people need the freedom to be armed. … People with evil intentions will carry guns in gun-free zones anyway,” said Barto.
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