PHOENIX - Two Arizona gun-rights groups said Wednesday that lawmakers should consider letting specially trained teachers and administrators carry guns in public schools to protect students against attacks.
Ken Rineer, president of Gun Owners of Arizona, said there is no reason to continue such a ban.
"I think we've had more campus school shootings since enactment of the law than before," he said of the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, first approved in 1990. Arizona has a separate ban on guns on school campuses to deal with exceptions to the federal statute.
And the Arizona Citizens Defense League said the news coverage of the school shooting in Connecticut that killed 26, including 20 children, misses the point.
"The main issue here is not that a deranged individual gained access to a firearm, as there is very little anyone could do to prevent that," the organization's statement read. "It's that anyone who could have stopped his rampage could not gain access to a firearm."
The bottom line, said spokesman Charles Heller, is more people with guns creates a safer environment.
"You shoot the attacker and stop the attack," he said. "It stops people from getting killed."
Heller and Rineer said they are not advocating arming every teacher and staffer. Instead, they said, those with special training should have immediate access to firearms should the need arise.
"Let's experiment with this a little bit," Rineer said, perhaps having some staffers go through the same training as a federal air marshal.
"Lock up an AR-15 (rifle) or something in their principal's office so if something breaks loose they can get the weapon out of the safe and defend children," he said.
Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, said he wants a go-slow approach to any changes in the law to avoid unintended consequences.
"We know what we want to stop," said Murphy, who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee this coming session. "But are the proposals that are being made, whatever they are, actually going to accomplish that goal or are they just going to make us feel good that we did something?"
Murphy said he does want to look at existing Texas law that gives individual school districts the right to allow or ban guns. He said this law has been in effect for about four years, meaning there has been some chance to see how it works and whether there are any downsides.
But Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said any ideas about arming teachers is based on a false assumption.
"I don't believe that more guns creates a safer school place," she said.
Lopez is instead pursuing a different path in the wake of last week's attack. She wants better training of people to identify those with mental-health problems and also a renewed ban on high-capacity magazines, limiting the number of rounds that can be loaded at one time.
And she wants the state to require background checks on everyone carrying a gun, not just those who obtain their firearms from commercial dealers. That would end the exemption that now exists for person-to-person sales, an exemption that also applies to gun shows.
Heller, however, said the last thing legislators should consider is additional restrictions on who can carry firearms and where they can bring them.
"Why would you want to lessen security?" he said. "Only people who can't read or can't think believe that would help."
The possibility of permitting guns in schools is getting a noncommittal response from Gov. Jan Brewer.
"The governor would need to see the specific legislation before she could take a position on something like that," said press aide Matthew Benson. He said Brewer has no preconceived thoughts on the issue.
"The fact of the matter is the governor is a strong but sensible supporter of the Second Amendment," he said. "She has a record of balancing her support of gun rights with public safety," pointing to her veto of a bill allowing guns in all public buildings and another permitting firearms along public rights of way on college and university campuses.
Heller and Rineer scoffed at any suggestion that having fewer bullets in a gun or rifle will reduce mass killings.
"Only people who know nothing about guns would say that," Heller said.
"Anybody who knows what they're doing with a gun could change magazines while they're shooting," he continued. "They don't even have to slow down."
Heller stressed that his organization has not yet decided what legislation, if any, to advance in the upcoming session. And he said ideas go beyond laws on guns.
For example, he said, it may be appropriate to consider "hardening" school buildings to ensure that only those who belong there can get in. Heller also said schools should consider new technology, like panic buttons and video cameras to help those responding to an incident.
On StarNet: See an interactive presentation on gun control at azstarnet.com/multimedia
call for action
President Obama urged the new Congress that convenes Jan. 3 to vote rapidly on measures that he says a majority of Americans support:
• Ban the sale of military-style assault weapons.
• Ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.
• Require criminal background checks for all gun buyers by removing loopholes that cover some sales, such as at gun shows.
• Confirm his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after years of delay.
In addition to gun restrictions, Obama said Vice President Joe Biden would consider how to:
• Improve access to mental-health care.
• Protect schools.
• Change an American culture that glorifies guns and violence.