College professors might soon be allowed to have more than pens and pencils in their pockets.
Legislation approved Wednesday by the House Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety would permit any faculty member who has a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring it on campus. SB1014 now goes to the full House.
The measure is being pushed by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise. He said the problem with keeping weapons off campus is it creates what he calls defense-free zones.
"Obviously, where criminals believe there's not somebody who can defend innocent life, they're not going to care there's a law against firearms," he said.
"They're going to come on the campus or in the facility and try to harm people," Harper continued. "I think it's important to have law-abiding citizens with the ability to defend themselves."
Harper said shootings on campuses, like the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, prove his point. A gunman killed 32 people before killing himself.
But John Pickens, police chief at Arizona State University, said it would be a mistake to say the problem is confined to college campuses, where state law now prohibits weapons except those of police officers.
"These tragic incidents can and have occurred at shopping malls, government facilities, fast-food restaurants, churches and housing complexes," he told lawmakers. And Pickens said while campus police across the nation have updated their plans, there is nothing anyone can do to absolutely keep such shootings from occurring.
"If an individual is determined to commit this type of act, he or she will do it," he said. And Pickens said they have no respect for human life - including their own, as shown by the fact that many of the shooters end up taking their own lives.
When something does occur, Pickens said his officers don't want to go into a classroom, confront multiple people carrying guns, and try to figure out who is the criminal.
But Dave Kopp, lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said all that just proves his point. He said all the objections presume that police can get there fast enough to make a difference.
"Picture a guy with a gun," he told lawmakers while standing at a podium about 10 feet from them. "How much damage can he do to you at that distance in 1.5 seconds?"
Kopp said people in that situation have to be prepared.
"Police are not going to be there in 1.5 seconds," he said.
"You are not going to be able to take a phone out and call them in 1.5 seconds," Kopp continued. "If you're talking about a 30-second response time, you'd better be able to do something other than call police."
Harper said he understands some lawmakers would like to let anyone carry a gun onto campus.
This is much narrower, limited not only to faculty but to those who have gone through the state-mandated training to carry a concealed weapon as well as the background check. Harper conceded, though, a broader bill might not have the necessary votes.