Wednesday’s National School Walkout event at the Arizona Capitol culminated in a two-hour sit-in at the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, who did not come out to meet with the students. Montini: Gov. Doug Ducey disses student protesters … lesson learned.
Gov. Ducey has said he is meeting with various interest groups – not high school students, obviously – and has promised to come up with his own legislative proposals, possibly as early as next week. The governor has hinted that could include something similar to Rep. Randy Friese’s bill on emergency seizure of weapons.
Emulating our Twitter-troll-in-chief, on Thursday Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey goes on tweetstorm over gun control, one day after student sit-in:
Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that his plan to improve school safety in Arizona could include tighter gun laws in several areas, a surprising move for a Republican governor in a red state.
In a flurry of afternoon tweets, Ducey outlined what his office said will be the basic components of his plan. Ducey said he is working on a bipartisan bill to tackle the issue.
“We are building an aggressive plan that address all these issues around school safety,” he tweeted. “Arizona can lead the nation in tackling this — and in a way that is non-partisan. We’ve done this on other issues, and we can do it again.”
Ducey’s posts came less than 24 hours after students from the group March for Our Lives Phoenix staged a dramatic sit-in outside his office.
Ducey did not meet with the students, but has talked with other interest groups in recent weeks.
The governor’s tweets didn’t include specific details of his proposals.
Spokesman Patrick Ptak said the posts are a broad outline of Ducey’s forthcoming plan, which could be released as early as Monday. He said the tweets were not a response to the sit-in that students staged Wednesday.
What the governor wants
Ducey tweeted about what could be the key element of his proposal: protections to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.
“In the overwhelming majority of the deadliest mass shootings in the last 20 years, the shooter exhibited obvious signs of being a threat,” he tweeted. “Why not have laws and a process to restrict these individuals from possessing or obtaining guns?”
Alongside the post, Ducey added a link to a CNN article with a picture of Nikolas Cruz, who is accused in the Parkland shooting and who was able to buy an AR-15 rifle despite a long history of disturbing behavior.
The governor has worked on the issue for weeks following the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which launched a national movement for stronger gun-control laws.
When asked on Feb. 27 by The Arizona Republic if he intended to act on gun-safety measures in the wake of the shooting, Ducey said he was already meeting with school superintendents, parents and law-enforcement officials to prepare legislation.
The governor also had multiple meetings with Democratic and Republican leaders in the state Legislature.
Ducey told The Republic his … aides were assessing what, if anything, state government could have done to prevent the shootings.
He suggested that courts should be able to issue a type of temporary order to prevent unhinged individuals from having guns.
Florida lawmakers passed a similar law in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
“We have situations in domestic violence where there can be a temporary restraining order on an individual,” Ducey said. “Why shouldn’t one of these individuals not have that type of order on them so that they don’t have access to a gun?”
The governor, who is running for re-election this year, said he wants schools to be as safe as possible.
“So part of that is the background checks, the loopholes, addressing mental health,” he said. “It’s also the idea of the (school) resource officer.
“Then there’s things around the architecture of the school — single point of entry — (and) what’s on the background check?”
Seven priority areas for Ducey
Ducey tweeted that seven priorities emerged from his meetings:
- “Increased mental and behavioral health resources at schools”
- “Restricted access to weapons for individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others”
- “Cracking down on people illegally possessing weapons”
- “Respecting the #2A (Second Amendment) rights of law-abiding Americans, while enforcing our laws on the books”
- “Increased school resource officer and law enforcement presence at schools”
- “Closing loopholes”
- “Enhanced background checks”
Students oppose more officers in schools
One element of the governor’s proposal drew immediate opposition from student organizers with March for Our Lives: school-resource officers.
“We don’t want guns on campus,” March for Our Lives Phoenix tweeted in response. “We want counselors and psychologists. Most school shootings in Arizona are suicides — (a school-resource officer) will not stop me from blowing my brains out in the bathroom.”
Some Democrats in the Legislature also are likely to oppose gun legislation that includes more school-resource officers.
Last week, a coalition of progressive Arizona groups sent the Legislature a letter stating they would fight any plan that includes more school resource officers. They argue that more guns in schools increases the likelihood of accidents or violence.
“In short: Arizona’s schools need fewer guns and more resources,” the letter states.
Gun-control efforts at Capitol often fail
Ducey’s foray into the gun-control issue is a significant development for a Republican governor in Arizona, where the conservative Legislature typically pushes to loosen gun laws.
The National Rifle Association, the country’s most visible and powerful gun-right lobbying organization, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening. [What about their lobbyists from the Arizona Citizens Defense League?]
Efforts to enact new gun restrictions have fallen flat in the Legislature for years.
This year, not one of the 10 gun-related bills Democrats sponsored — including one similar to Ducey’s proposal to stop mentally ill people from possessing guns from Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson — has received a public hearing.
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson, responded to Ducey’s tweets with a barb. Farley is also running for governor this year.
“You have to do more than check off a box,” he tweeted in response. “You have to actually implement real policy. No proposal will work unless we enforce background checks on all gun sales.”
I guess we are going to find out what, if anything, Governor Ducey will actually propose next week. We will also find out whether he is just staking out a new position out of self-preservation in an election year (“Look at me, I tried“), or whether he will genuinely engage in lobbying and some arm-twisting of legislative Republicans who have always been opposed to any and all common sense gun safety regulations.
The March For Our Lives is next Saturday, with a sister march planned at the Arizona Capitol. It’s time for people to turn out en masse to make your voices heard. Time is running short in this legislative session. Let them hear you loud and clear. Demand action.
If Republicans fail to act, “vote them out.”