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Updated Dec 26, 2012 - 4:14 pm

Arizona AG proposes arming one educator per school

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne proposed a plan Wednesday to
allow one educator in each school to carry a gun after they receive free
firearms training from law enforcement.

The proposal comes less than two weeks after a gunman fatally shot 20
first-graders and six educators during a Dec. 14 rampage at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Horne said the program, which would first need legislative action to amend
state law, is aimed at reducing the risk of similar shootings in Arizona.

Under the plan, which Horne said is backed by sheriffs in Pinal, Mohave and
Apache counties, each public school could designate a principal or educator to
keep the gun in a secure, locked location at the facility. It would limit
gun-carriers to one per school and would be a voluntary program.

However, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu came out with his own, much broader
plan on Wednesday aimed at training multiple educators per school to carry guns,
noting his proposal and Horne’s were “the difference between putting your toe
in a pool or jumping in.”

“And they should not be in a locked box these weapons,” Babeu said. “Our
schools are not as safe as we think they are, and we need to do something about
it.”

Some schools around the state already have an armed law enforcement presence
through the so-called school resource officer program, but budget constraints
have cut it back.

“The ideal solution would be to have an armed police officer in each school,”
Horne said, echoing calls from the National Rifle Association since the
Connecticut shootings.

The next best thing, he said, is to arm an educator, comparing that proposal to
allowing pilots to carry guns after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, called the 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.

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