PHOENIX (AP) - The seemingly never-ending fight between Arizona gun rights advocates who want students to be able to carry guns and colleges and universities that opposes allowing firearms on campuses is back yet again.
Republicans on the Arizona state Senate Judiciary committee on Jan. 20 approved legislation that would require public colleges and universities to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun. Democrats unanimously opposed the bill, which now heads to the full Senate.
The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers is the latest effort by GOP lawmakers to erase policies banning firearms and other weapons on college campuses in the state.
"I am a believer that guns save lives, and if a student has a concealed weapons permit than he or she should be able to carry on campus and thus make the campus safer," Rogers said.
The measure is opposed by the Arizona Board of Regents, which regularly beats back efforts at the Legislature to allow guns on college and university campuses. In 2018, a bill that would allow stun guns and other non-lethal weapons on campus failed, but the board changed its policy to allow stun guns, pepper spray and some other personal defense weapons on campus.
Michael Thompson, the police chief at Arizona State University, said allowing guns to be carried on campus is a recipe for disaster.
"I’m here to tell you firsthand experience that university students make very poor decisions on a daily basis, sometimes hourly basis," Thompson said. "Adding guns to an already high-risk environment of alcohol, drugs, overreaction, lack of life experience and immaturity is a very dangerous combination."
Michael Infanzon, a lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said the legislation does not let everyone "walk on campus with a gun willy-nilly."
What it does do is allow people who have gone through training to obtain a permit to carry their weapon for self-defense, he said.
Republicans raised concerns about safety at schools and said guns are already on campus, only carried by criminals.
"You’re thinking about the bad people carrying, the people committing the crimes," GOP Sen. Warren Peterson said. "It takes a good person with a gun to stop a bad person with a gun."
Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada said more guns will only make the situation worse.
"Policies that force colleges to allow guns on campuses are likely to lead to more shootings, to more homicides, to more suicides and to more dangerous situations, not less," Quezada said. "We keep promoting this false narrative that guns are the answer to all our problems. And no, its not."
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