Guns in Arizona schools, is it a rational solution?


Cross posted from the Arizona Eagletarian

We are all, rightfully, horrified when — and it happens all too often — a school shooting takes place.

There has been far too little academic research on the causes and legitimate interventions that can prevent violence in our schools.

Much can be said about the culture and environment and whether it has anything to do with promoting safety or stressing our children and their teachers to breaking points. That’s not the subject of this blog post, however.

On Monday, Cronkite News Service reporter Brittney Elena Morris reported onHB2412, currently making its way through the Arizona House of Representatives. Approved last week by the House Appropriations committee, if it becomes law, HB2412 would establish the “school safety designee program” to be run out of the attorney general’s office.

PHOENIX – Giving trained schoolteachers and staff access to firearms in storage lockers is a way to secure campuses when it isn’t possible to provide resource officers, a state lawmaker contends.

“The danger in our schools is an issue that isn’t going to go away unless we do something about it,” said Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista. “Arming our teachers is the best option at this point.”

The bill is reportedly the brainchild of current Attorney General Tom Horne. Because it would put more guns in schools, and because those guns would not be under constant control of fully trained and accredited peace officers, HB2412 might just scare the bejeezus out of you.  At least if you have (or know any) children in Arizona schools, that is.

The program would require background checks (which are supposed to be done on every employee in schools already) and a whopping 24 hours of training, which must:

  • Be at least twenty-four hours in length.
  • Be conducted on a pass or fail basis.
  • Address all of the following topics:
  • legal issues relating to the use of deadly force.
  • weapon care and maintenance.
  • mental conditioning for the use of deadly force.
  • safe handling and storage of weapons.
  • marksmanship.
  • judgmental shooting.
  • scenario based training.
  • force on force training.
  • familiarity with police active shooter response.
  • coordination with the local jurisdiction.

Seriously John? Only three days of training? From the Cronkite story,

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill is a defense against maniacs.

“I have no doubt this bill is going to help Arizona and will pass,” he said. “A lot of kids are going to die if there isn’t someone in that school to protect them.”

By the way, certified peace officers, on the other hand, must complete a 585 hour training course and pass a comprehensive examination before they are allowed to wear a badge and carry a gun in service of the public in Arizona. School resource officers would be certified and have substantially more than just three days worth of training.

State Rep. Andrew Sherwood (D-LD26/Tempe) and a couple of his Democratic colleagues, sensing the absurdity of Kavanagh’s and Horne’s advocacy for this lunatic notion, asked some critical, necessary questions in that Appropriations committee hearing. Kavanagh let him speak, but still blew off the insight as insignificant. Here’s a brief clip of Andrew posing one such question.

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If you are unable to view the clip above, you may view it on the Arizona Eagletarian.

Horne said there has been 44 incidents of school shootings since Sandy Hook and “the fact that nobody is there to shoot back is an incredible tragedy.”

Kavanagh, wrongly trying to make it into something that Sherwood had to defend, reiterated the myth that the only thing that can keep our children safe is a good guy with a gun.

Good job, Andrew, for standing up to and daring to call bullshit on a couple of arrogant Republicans who have no rational basis to propose such an increase in the danger that our children face everyday.

To Kavanagh’s point, however, and as commentary on the meager 24 hours of training for these teachers, I call your attention to a segment broadcast by 60 Minutesjust days before this committee hearing. Football coach Frank Hall, who is used to dealing with big, tough high school kids described his harrowing experience in February 2012 confronting a shooter at a school in Chardon, Ohio.

If it took that kind of instant, gut-level decision for a guy like Frank Hall to deal with that kind of a situation with an adrenaline-filled reaction, how in the hell could Horne’s hair-brained scheme for a measly 24 hours of training possibly prevent anything? You either already have what it takes or you’re not going to develop it in three days.

To my good friend Andrew’s point — that there has to be a way to reduce the risk without introducing more firearms into an already tense environment — I offer the following irreverent commentary.

h/t to Facebook community Hillbilly Hangout.

Arizona Republic columnist and editor Jennifer Dokes, regarding the SB1062 debacle, recently described our GOP state legislators,

It’s astonishing they ignored the clear truth that any mix of religion and politics requires handling with extreme care.

They were either clueless or arrogant. Either way, they didn’t bother to venture outside their bubble, which is not a good position from which to move a changing, diverse state forward.

One might expect them, in the wake of SB1062 to wake up BEFORE they become responsible for another catastrophe by putting more guns in schools.


  1. Kavanagh retired from the police department of the NY/NJ Port Authority, which is more than peripherally involved in Chris Christie’s current mess in NJ.

    He was also involved in local politics in NJ.

  2. We need protection from the maniacs in the Legislature. Any guns in schools is a terrible idea. Wasn’t Kavanagh a cop in New York before the carpetbagger came to AZ and ran for office?

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