'Guns in Colleges' Advances [Archive] - Glock Talk


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02-26-2008, 02:09
Legislation that would allow people to carry guns on Arizona community-college or public-university campuses advanced Monday, 11 days after a gunman killed five people and himself in an Illinois university lecture hall.

Members of the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee passed the legislation along a party-line 4-3 vote. Democratic senators Ken Cheuvront, Albert Hale and Richard Miranda voted no.

Senate Bill 1214, which would allow concealed-weapons permit holders to carry a gun at community colleges and Arizona's three public universities, next heads to the Senate Rules Committee.

Gun owners must be 21 or older to obtain a permit.

Sen. Karen Johnson, the bill's lead sponsor, originally introduced legislation that would allow guns at all schools, including elementary, middle and high schools. But facing pressure from some Republican colleagues, the senator was forced to narrow the bill's scope to apply only to higher-education institutions.

"It's not the bill that I wanted because I still feel our little kindergartners are sitting there as sitting ducks," said Johnson, a Mesa Republican and Judiciary Committee member. But she added that the revised bill has a better chance of moving forward.

Cheuvront, a Phoenix Democrat and the only other committee member to explain his vote, said he didn't view schools "as a good place to have firearms whether that someone is deranged or happens to be a student or member of the faculty."

The committee last week heard more than two hours of intense testimony from both supporters and opponents of the measure.

Police chiefs from Arizona's three public universities - Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University - said allowing guns on campuses could create greater confusion and lead to the loss of additional innocent lives when police respond to a school shooting. Officers could shoot the wrong person, they said.

On the other side of the issue were gun-rights advocates, who said the proposal would give students, teachers and administrators a way to protect themselves during a mass shooting. By the time police arrive on scene, supporters said, the bloodshed is usually over.

On Valentine's Day, Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, walked into a Northern Illinois University class and opened fire using a shotgun and two handguns.

By the time campus authorities reached the scene, the University of Illinois graduate student had killed five people, wounded 16 others and fatally shot himself.

Following Monday's vote, lobbyist Kendra Leiby of the Arizona Coalition of Domestic Violence said her group was disappointed by the Senate panel's decision, arguing that legalizing guns on campuses invites perpetrators to commit crimes.

John Wentling, vice president of the gun-rights group Arizona Citizens Defense League, also expressed disappointment, but for a different reason.

"By limiting the bill to colleges and universities, it says that school-age children aren't as valuable as college students," he said.