Arizona Attorney General proposes arming school employees

Arizona's Attorney General has proposed a program to train one person at each school in the state to use a firearm in an effort to minimize the risk of a repetition of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Tom Horne introduced a proposal Wednesday that would allow a school principal or designated staff member to have access to a secured firearm on school grounds and receive training in the use of firearms and emergency management.

The attorney general said in a press release that at least three Arizona sheriffs have endorsed the proposal and other sheriffs are considering participating in the program.

Horne said the state's budget constraints resulted in the legislature reducing funding for school resource officers assigned to schools throughout the state. The ideal situation, he said, would be to have an armed officer in each school.

"The next best solution is to have one person in the school trained to handle firearms, to handle emergency situations, and possessing a firearm in a secure location. This proposal is analogous to arming pilots on planes,” Horne said in a statement.

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    Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who has proposed a program aimed at training multiple educators per school to carry guns, told that any school official who wants to be armed should be allowed to carry a firearm.

    "Who better than people who already know our schools, who are well be the immediate first line of defense against these mass murderers," Babeu said.

    Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, called Horne's plan ‘‘a horrible, horrible idea.’’

    ‘‘Teachers are not cops. Teachers are not military. Their job is to teach our kids, not to be worried about how to defend themselves in a tactical situation.’’ Campbell said Wednesday, adding that he will instead push for additional funding to fully restore the school resource officer program.

    ‘‘That’s where we need to focus our money,’’ Campbell said. ‘‘The last thing you want is a bunch of people with guns at schools making situations worse.’’

    Babeu said his plan would focus on arming as many educators as possible on a volunteer basis, even those who work at schools where a law enforcement officer already is present. Horne’s plan would limit gun-toting teachers to schools where there is no armed presence.

    ‘‘If a bunch of teachers brought guns to school, I'm fearful the kids could get access to them,’’ Horne said.

    Apache County Sheriff Joe Dedman said the issue needs to be studied more before authorities approach the Legislature.

    ‘‘I'm not ruling out any of the ideas,’’ he said.

    Trish Carter, a spokeswoman for Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, said he was ‘‘on board’’ with Horne’s idea, but noted it was too soon to comment or offer specific details.

    Currently, only Utah and Kansas allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools. In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, more than 200 teachers in Utah signed up for free concealed-weapons training being offered Thursday by the Utah Shooting Sports Council.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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