Governor Ducey’s so-called school safety plan runs into opposition from both Democrats and Republicans

The Arizona Capitol Times obtained a rough draft of Governor Ducey’s so-called “school safety plan,” his knee-jerk reaction to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that inspired a mass student protest movement, resulting in the Florida legislature actually passing new restrictions on firearms for the first time in decades. Legislature poised to work on Ducey school safety plan:

The legislation includes provisions to take guns away from those deemed a danger to themselves or others [deemed a Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP order], mandatory active shooter training for school resource officers, creation of a school safety center within the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center and mental health first-aid training for public school students across the state.

Florida is known as the “gunshine state,” a laboratory for the N.R.A., just like Arizona. Governor Ducey’s plan does not even go as far as the minimalist new laws recently enacted in Florida, i.e., raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. Within hours after Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the legislation, the merchants of death at the N.R.A. filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court to block the legislation.

Nor is Governor Ducey nearly as bold as Republican Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, who said he will sign three bills passed by the Vermont state legislature:

S.221, known as a “Red Flag bill,” which permits law enforcement to seize guns from a person deemed an “extreme risk” to themselves or others. [Similar to Ducey’s Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP order].

H.422, known as “the domestic violence bill,” which sets in place a process for police to confiscate firearms from people cited or arrested on domestic violence charges.

S.55, a bill that expands background checks, bans bump stocks, raises the age to buy a gun to 21 and sets limits on the size of magazines – 15 rounds for handguns and 10 for shotguns.

Ducey introduced his school safety plan in the wake of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Only because he wants to be seen as “doing something” in an election year and to avoid the mass student protest movement. Ducey has signed every bill from our GOP-controlled legislature removing regulations on firearms in his tenure.

The 51-page bill is so new it doesn’t have a bill number yet, but it details a number of the priorities Ducey called for when he unveiled the plan weeks ago, and in some cases, the amount of money Ducey proposes to spend in order to make his plan a reality.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said the draft, obtained Tuesday, is not the final version of the legislation.

“There are more changes that need to be made that will continue to be made over the next day or two,” said Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato. “We hope to introduce a final bill that addresses some of the issues that members have this week.”

A major pillar of Ducey’s plan — to create a Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP order by which law enforcement, family members or someone else can petition the court to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms — is included in the bill. Should a court determine a person may be a threat to themselves or others after being evaluated by a behavioral health professional, the court can prohibit the person from possessing firearms for up to 180 days.

The bill also calls for all school districts that issue student identification cards to include the safe schools hotline number on all student IDs starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

The legislation also beefs up school safety training requirements for teachers, school resource officers and calls for “age-appropriate” training for students. Nearly $600,000 would be provided to the Department of Public Safety to create a new Center for School Safety, which would house a statewide hotline for students to report suspicious activity.

School districts and charter schools may also enter into agreements to hire reserve law enforcement officers to serve as campus security officers, according to the proposed legislation. As pitched by the governor’s staff, those agreements would be voluntary, and made only if local school officials desired.

The governor’s office has also been able to identify additional resources to help fund more school resource officers, Scarpinato said. The bill provides an additional $2 million to the Department of Education for those positions.

Should sufficient funds be available, the legislation would require school districts to hire contractors that would be able to provide mental health first-aid training and behavioral health services to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

To that effect, the bill provides a $2 million appropriation, to be matched by $6 million in federal funding, that would provide students covered by Medicaid or KidsCare with access to counselors.

Another $450,000 is provided to fund mental health first-aid training for students.

Before the ink has even dried on his proposed bill, Governor Ducey’s so-called school safety plan has run into opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.

As drafted, the bill is also notable for what it lacks. Democrats have called Ducey’s proposal ineffective so long as it lacks universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks, but those provisions are not included in the legislation. The minority party has vowed to vote against the plan as proposed by Ducey weeks ago.

Nor does it include plans to arm teachers, as proposed by some Republican leaders who support a school marshall program, by which teachers, coaches and school administrators could  volunteer to undergo hours of firearms training before being able to use a gun at schools to respond to school shootings.

To his credit, arming teachers is one policy that is not in Governor Ducey’s plan, something neither teachers nor students are asking for. Only GOP legislators who take their marching orders from the NRA and the Arizona Citizens Defense League lobbyists for the merchants of death want this. Republican lawmakers in Arizona want armed teachers in school safety plan.

Resistance from Republican ideologues to Governor Ducey’s school safety plan could leave it short of the votes needed to get it approved. Some GOP lawmakers bristle at governor’s gun violence proposal:

House and Senate Democrats declared it a non-starter within hours after it was printed because of its failure to require background checks when weapons are sold by individuals and at gun shows. Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, said it makes no sense to say some people cannot buy weapons from licensed gun dealers when “loopholes” in the law allow them to buy one anyway.

But Ducey also does not have universal support of fellow Republicans who are anxious about [the Severe Threat Order of Protection, or STOP order] provisions which allow police officers to seize weapons and courts to hold people for psychological evaluation.

It would take just the refusal of just five House Republicans or two Senate Republicans to kill the plan.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 at a Florida high school, had made multiple credible threats ahead of the incident, things he said could have allowed police to act.
“The law wasn’t the problem,” he said. “The performance of people was the problem.”

He called it an “absolutely cruel deceit on people” to “put another law out there that looks politically expedient to solve a problem.”

Florida does not have a severe threat risk restraining order that might have prevented Nikolas Cruz from becoming a school shooter, so per usual, Finchem is wrong. Florida considered such a bill, but did not enact it. This Florida bill could restrict guns from dangerous owners.

“The current law is not strong enough,” he said. Scarpinato said the governor wants not only a “tougher” law but a broader one, allowing more people — including family members, roommates, teachers and others — to go to court on their own to ask a judge to have someone picked up and evaluated to see if their weapons should be seized.

It isn’t just the question of constitutional rights that is raising concerns.

House Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale, noted the package includes $11 million for additional state-paid school safety officers. That would add about 110 officers on top of the 113 already being funded by the state, not including those financed by local schools or governments.

It has some costs to it,” he said. “I want to make sure it is not just window dressing to make it look like we’re doing something, but actually achieves the effect we want,” he said.

If this costs anything, I’m out.

The heart of Ducey’s plan, though, is the “Stop Order of Protection.”

It permits a police officer to take someone into custody and before a judge if there is “probable cause” to believe the person is a danger to self or others and is likely to cause serious physical injury to another “unless immediate action is taken.”

Among the things a court can consider are things like a “credible threat of physical injury” and cruel mistreatment of an animal within the prior 14 days. If the judge agrees, the person can be held for up to 72 hours for evaluation, not including weekends and holidays.

A separate provision allows family members, significant others, roommates, teachers and others to go to court to seek their own order of protection. Here, too, there are similar requirements for proof of some acts a judge could use to hold someone for evaluation.

“This is where we’re walking a really fine line,” said Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert.

“We don’t want to remove people’s firearms simply on an allegation,” he said. “There has to be proof that a crime has been committed and that crime has risen to the level that somebody is at risk of being harmed.”

The goal is to remove a firearm from a mentally or emotionally unstable person before a crime is committed. The STOP order requires less evidence than an adjudication of mental incompetency, because it is a temporary emergency order.

Farnsworth also cited provisions that can deny someone’s constitutional rights to bear arms for longer than necessary, especially after a judge rejects a petition for an order of protection.

“Now, they’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “That needs to be returned immediately.”

Ducey’s proposal, however, says a weapon need not be returned for up to 72 hours — longer if there’s a holiday or weekend — after an order that expires or is quashed.

And if a judge does not issue an order of protection, release of that person can take up to 24 hours.

House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, cited language allowing someone to be held for up to 72 hours before a judge makes a final decision on whether to maintain or quash an order of protection.

“I don’t think that the Fourth Amendment allows for the removal of a person from society without committing a crime or without adjudication of something,” she said.

She, of course, is wrong. These temporary emergency orders exist in several states and have not been found to be unconstitutional.

Then there’s possible bias.

We also don’t know the ideology of the psychiatrist or the ideology of the judge and whether or not they believe this is a good way to remove guns off the street,” she explained.

Yes, are they an ammosexual fetishist or gun worshipper and also a card-carrying member of the NRA? If not, they cannot sit in determination of whether or not to remove a firearm from a mentally or emotionally unstable person. WTF is wrong with you, lady?

Townsend said she supports things like money for more school resource officers and ensuring that criminal histories are promptly uploaded into a database used by federal gun dealers to determine if someone is allowed to have a weapon. But for the moment, lawmakers are being given an all-or-nothing choice.

“I will not vote for a violation of the Constitution,” Townsend said.

All that goes to whether Ducey will need Democrat support to push the package over the finish line, support he won’t get without expanded background checks.

“Unfortunately, the governor’s draft legislation is about politics, not policy,” Friese said.

But it’s not just Ducey who won’t consider such a plan.

“You’re talking about private sales of private property,” said Farnsworth, saying imposing a new restriction takes the state “down a very slippery slope.”

The slippery slope to sanity? No, we can’t have that!

Ducey’s proposal also got a decidedly negative response from Jordan Harb, the Mesa Mountain View High School junior who, as co-chair of March For Our Lives, helped organize a student walkout last month to help get the attention of lawmakers to the question of school violence.

In a prepared statement Wednesday he called it “51 pages of utter BS” and said the governor should “stop throwing pennies and empty promises at a problem that demands real funding and real action.”

Harb wants not just universal background checks but also a ban on “bump stocks” and more school counselors.

Unless Governor Ducey breaks up his proposal into bite-size pieces for separate consideration, it does not appear that he will have the votes. And doing nothing is exactly what the NRA and Arizona Citizens Defense League lobbyists for the merchants of death want.

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