PHOENIX — A veteran state lawmaker is moving to allow some people to be armed with everything from guns and knives to baseball bats and chemical Mace on college and university campuses.
Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said the current ban essentially leaves faculty and students at the mercy of anyone who ignores the law and decides to start shooting. He said that’s not right.
But Borrelli, recognizing the political controversy that has stopped prior proposals, told Capitol Media Services he’s willing to make some major concessions. One would be requiring those who want to carry to first tell campus administrators.
Potentially more significant, he would require more than just completing the current state requirements to carry a concealed firearm, a requirement he conceded has been diluted over the years.
Borrelli said those who want the right to defend themselves on campus would have to undergo additional school-approved training, including specifically what to do — and not do — in “active shooter” situations.
He acknowledged that may draw opposition from gun-rights groups who have argued for years that all adults deserve the unrestricted right of self-defense.
But Borrelli said the change might blunt the opposition that has come from university police departments. And it might even help avoid a gubernatorial veto.
Whether the changes will make the measure more acceptable to universities remains unknown.
The University of Arizona Police Department referred calls to the Board of Regents. A board spokeswoman said the panel is to review the measure next month.
Arizona law generally allows adults to carry firearms anywhere in public.
There are some exceptions for public buildings. And state law allows colleges and universities to set their own rules.
HB 2170 would overrule any such regulations for faculty members and students who possess a valid state permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Similar efforts have been pushed for more than a decade. And in 2011, one made it all the way through the process, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Borrelli said the goal of such laws remains valid. He also said this is about more than guns, citing university regulations that also ban knives, chemical sprays and similar items.
“If a student is attacked and they use any weapon of any sort, a knife, to defend themselves and thwart off an attacker, if they report it they could be expelled and possibly prosecuted,” Borrelli said.
And that’s not even mentioning the kind of deadly attacks that have occurred on college campuses across the nation.
“You should go to school and not have to worry about somebody coming in, some nut, wanting to have a shooting on campus,” he said.
“The police cannot be everywhere,” Borrelli continued. “Just to have a blue light every so many feet (at an emergency phone) is not necessarily going to keep you safe.”
Borrelli said, though, he does not mean that campuses should be wide-open to weapons.
The state also issues concealed-carry permits to those who undergo certain training and pass a background check.
Those permits give holders some additional rights, such as the ability to bring a gun into a place where alcohol is served, though they are not supposed to drink.
About 251,000 such permits have been issued.
But the legal requirement to prove competence to get a permit can be obtained through various paths, ranging from proof of prior military service to any hunter-safety course approved by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Borrelli said more should be required before bringing a gun onto campus than knowing how to fire a gun. It’s knowing when not to use it in given situations.