In a unanimous vote, the Gila Community College (GCC) board agreed to oppose allowing guns on campus.
“There’s been a lot of controversy over this bill,” said Larry Stephenson, president of the GCC board.
The board’s Feb. 16 vote was spurred after the Arizona Senate hopped on the guns on campus bandwagon with Senate Bill 1474. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6 and now awaits a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
Following in the GCC board’s footsteps, the Arizona Board of Regents passed a resolution opposing the bill to allow firearms on campus on Feb. 21.
“If you asked me how many guns I own, I would say ‘not enough,’” said Regent Ernest Calderon in a press release, “Responsible gun ownership is part of my family tradition. However, I don’t understand the need to allow or to justify handguns on campus. Allowing handguns on campus creates nothing more than unnecessary liability.”
GCC board members’ comments agreed with the Regents.
“I go on record not supporting guns on campus,” said Robert Ashford.
“I’m opposed and communicated this to Senator Allen,” said Tom Loeffler.
“Students don’t want to come to campus not knowing who has a gun or not,” said Armida Bittner.
The language of the bill requires anyone carrying a gun on to campus to follow the training and safety measures required by the application for a concealed carry permit.
However, in 2010 Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1108 which removed the requirement for a concealed carry permit. For the past two years, Arizona residents at least 21 years old may carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
“I’m disturbed that the Legislature would write in this requirement (concealed carry permit) into the bill when they removed that requirement,” said Loeffler.
With its vote, the GCC board has stepped into a passionate national debate.
Gun supporters say they are protecting the right to personal defense enshrined in the Second Amendment. They cite the need for students and faculty to defend themselves against crazed shooters, such as the Virginia Tech madman Seung-Hui Cho.
The Web site of the 40,000-member group, Students for Concealed Carry, published five reasons to allow guns on campus:
• Only licensed, legally armed citizens would carry.
• Gun-Free Zones don’t work — criminals do not follow the law. Stickers decrying a gun-free zone don’t affect their behavior.
• The net effect is positive. Multiple college campuses in Colorado and all public universities in Utah allow concealed carry guns on their campuses and have not had any shootouts.
• Everyone deserves protection, better than playing dead or huddling under desks.
• Colleges can’t protect students. They are open environments with little to no secure prevention measures.
The debate over guns on campus gained a significant win in September when the Oregon Court of Appeals struck down a state administrative rule that prohibited carrying guns on property owned or controlled by the Oregon University system.
However, Arizona college administrators, police chiefs and students — along with the GCC board members, believe guns have no place in an institution of higher learning. They say guns would inhibit the free flow of ideas.
During the first week of February, all three Arizona universities, their police chiefs and student organizations wrote in opposition to guns on campus.
“Training is critical in the response to active shooter situations or any other situation that may result in the use of deadly force,” wrote all three Arizona university police chiefs.
“Can you imagine a crowded college lecture hall in which one student pulls a handgun and fires a shot, then a dozen more students untrained in the use of firearms and how to handle potentially deadly situations all pull out their guns?
“Innocent people would be caught in a deadly crossfire of panicked students firing in every direction and what does the SWAT team do when it arrives? How do they know which of a dozen or more armed and possibly firing shooters is the bad guy?” wrote Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow.
“I have a great appreciation for guns, but I’ve seen tragedies occur when people didn’t handle guns properly, or made bad decisions about the use of firearms,” University of Arizona Police Chief Anthony Daykin was reported as saying to the Board of Regents.