Concealed carry coming to Arizona colleges?

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a ceremony on Dec. 7, 2021, in Phoenix.

On Jan. 20 Senate Bill 1123 was passed by Arizona’s Senate Judiciary Committee. Introduced by Senator Wendy Rogers, the bill allows any student with a concealed carry permit to carry a gun on Arizona college campuses. S.B. 1123 passed 4-3 in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now move on to the full Senate for another round of debate and approval. 

Should the new bill pass in both the Arizona House and Senate, and receive a signature from Gov. Doug Ducey, individuals with adequate permits would be allowed to carry guns on Arizona college campuses — joining other states like Utah and Colorado.

The hearing of this bill was met with debate from both those in favor and those opposed to the self-defense bill. A recent KPNX-TV Phoenix article wrote that the controversy regarding guns on campus is not new to the state of Arizona. Lawmakers have discussed the topic multiple times since 2008. 

After the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 — which killed 32 people and still remains the worst school shooting in United States history — some Arizona lawmakers pushed to allow anyone 21 and older to carry concealed weapons at public universities and colleges. Although the bill did not pass, local lawmakers revisited the subject when a similar bill was proposed in 2011. 

A bill introduced after the 2011 Tucson shooting, which killed six people and seriously injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, pushed to allow weapons in public areas of college campuses, but was later vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. In 2016, the debate over guns on campus was discussed again after a campus shooting led to the death of a NAU student. However, this bill was also not passed.

The most recent bill was sponsored by Rogers, who represents Arizona’s 6th legislative district which covers portions of the Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai counties. Rogers was the first to give testimony for the bill during the Senate Judiciary meeting Jan. 20.

“I am a believer that guns save lives,” Rogers said. “If a college student has a concealed carry weapons permit then he or she should be allowed to carry on campus, and thus make campus safer.” 

Later, Rogers responded to opposition by suggesting that potential perpetrators may be less likely to inflict harm knowing that other students may have personal weapons to defend themselves. Rogers additionally pointed out that an unknown number of illegal weapons may already be present on Arizona campuses.

ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson was among those giving testimony in opposition to the bill. Thompson said college students and firearms are a bad combination as college students face challenges such as immaturity and mental health issues. 

“I’m here to tell you firsthand experience that university students make very poor decisions on a daily basis — sometimes on an hourly basis,” Thompson said. “The potential for a student to make a rash decision that is irreversible is only increased with guns on campus.”

The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) — the governing body of the public university system within the state — has also taken an opposing stance. ABOR stated they are disappointed that a legislative committee advanced the bill and asked lawmakers to consider the concerns of campus police chiefs.

“Our state’s university presidents, faculty and student associations and Arizona Association of Police Chiefs have consistently in past years voiced strong opposition to legislation enabling firearms on campus,” ABOR said in a statement to The Lumberjack. “The board and university presidents take seriously their obligation to provide a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. This legislation is counterproductive to that effort.”

Some students disagree with the new bill and instead would feel safer without the presence of guns on their campus. Junior Jaelenn Johnson said he believes college should be a safe environment that excludes carrying weapons.

“A school campus shouldn’t be a place where you need to carry a gun unless you are law or police. It’s their job to protect, not the students,” Johnson said. “Most college students can be immature and might do something that can harm another student.”

During the Jan. 20 hearing, Michael Infanzon spoke on behalf of the Arizona Citizens Defense League in support of S.B. 1123. Infanzon said that instead of talking about the dangers of permitted carriers having guns on campus, we should recognize data from states that already allow concealed carry weapons on college campuses. 

Infanzon said that permit holders commit firearm-related violations at an even lower rate than law enforcement. He also said that data from college campuses which already allow guns on campus such as Michigan and Nevada shows that the rate is just as low for college-age permit holders.

Infanzon was the last speaker to share testimony before S.B. 1123 was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the debate continues among Arizona citizens and students as the bill awaits hearing within the state's Senate and House. 

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