Ducey introduces comprehensive plan to address school safety
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey introduced a plan on Monday that aimed to make schools and communities safer by increasing mental and behavioral health resources, restricting access to firearms and tightening background checks.
The plan, titled “Safe Arizona Schools Plan,” was issued in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day. A 19-year-old former student is accused of taking an assault rifle into the school and killing 17 people — mostly students — and injuring 14 more.
Ducey first announced some details of the plan last week, one day after a group of students held a sit-in at his office in an effort to speak with the Arizona governor about addressing gun control.
One of the biggest portions of the Arizona Republican’s plan was implementing a Severe Threat Order of Protection order.
The order, also called STOP, would allow law enforcement officials or other specific individuals, such as family members, school administrators or behavioral and mental health professionals, to petition the court and prevent an individual who “poses a significant threat” to themselves or others from purchasing a weapon.
The individual who would request the STOP order would need “clear and convincing evidence” that proves that an individual exhibits substantially more than a 50 percent likelihood of a severe threat. It was not made clear how that would be determined numerically.
The order would also be reported to local law enforcement officials and the Arizona Department of Public Safety and would be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
If the STOP order is issued, the subject of the order must surrender their weapons within 24 hours of it being issued or law enforcement officials could confiscate them.
Any household member or guardian of the individual in question would also have to submit an affidavit that stated the individual would not have access to firearms.
Anyone who violates the order would be subject to a Class 4 felony and could face anywhere from one to nearly four years in prison. Anyone who would make a false sworn statement in an attempt to obtain a STOP order would be subject to a Class 5 felony and could face anywhere from six months to 2.5 years in prison.
The subject of a STOP order may request one hearing at any point during the duration of the order to request that it be quashed. The order would be valid for up to six months past the initial end date “based on evidence provided in support of the extension.”
The governor argued that the plan would not infringe on that individual’s Second Amendment rights because it would ensure due process before going into effect. The petition would also only be granted upon an order from the superior or juvenile court if the individual is under the age of 18.
Another one of the problems that the plan aimed to address was the gap in the state’s background check system and increase the completeness and accuracy of the records used to populate the background check database.
Currently, law enforcement agencies in Arizona are required to submit case information to the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Computerized Criminal History system, which populates the background check system.
According to a Arizona Criminal Justice Commission review of the 2015 criminal history records, that system was only 63.6 percent complete, due in large part to antiquated paper filing systems.
The Safe Arizona Schools Plan would allocate an unknown amount of funds to update the database and establish online portals for all Arizona counties to facilitate electronic submission of criminal history information.
Those portals would require county authorities to submit criminal history entries within 24 hours, “one of the most aggressive standards in the nation,” the plan claimed.
That would greatly enhance the completeness and accuracy of the state’s criminal database and would strengthen the reliability of background checks in an effort to keep individuals with a violent history from buying firearms.
The governor’s plan included appropriating $2 million, along with an estimated $6 million match in federal funding, to increase behavioral and mental health resources on campuses across the state.
It also would provide training in mental health first aid to allow teachers and administrators to “identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness that may cause concern.”
Ducey also called on the Arizona Department of Public Safety to create the Center for School Safety at the Arizona Counter-Terrorism Information Center, or ACTIC, to serve as the central tip line for reporting school safety concerns. The tip line would also be included on all student’s school ID cards and would share information they received with the schools.
The plan would also provide training resources and improved access to funding to ensure that school resource officers have proper training and would create a voluntary program to allow local law enforcement to complete administrative tasks such as paperwork on a school campus or in their vehicle outside of the campus.
This, the governor argued, would allow for a greater number of law enforcement officials to be at the ready in case of an emergency, increasing deterrents to school violence and potentially decreasing response time.
The plan would also create an optional reserve system of former law enforcement officers that would be trained and certified to carry firearms on campus and would create a new investment in law enforcement training for active shooter situations at a school.
Ducey said the plan would also allow the Arizona Department of Public Safety to work with school districts and local law enforcement to develop safety standards that would establish best practices on how to make campuses more secure and how to effectively work together in the event of an active shooter.
It also called for additional lockdown training at schools and would create clear procedures to differentiate active shooter drills from other drills, like fire drills.
The plan was developed after Ducey met with various groups of people across the state, including students, parents, teachers, law enforcement and lawmakers.
“Arizona can lead the nation in tackling the issue of school safety and the Safe Arizona Schools Plan is an aggressive approach that puts the safety of our schools and communities first,” he said in a statement.
“This plan has been shaped by the lessons we’ve learned from past tragedies and by meaningful solutions we’ve heard from Arizonans across the state. School safety is a top priority for the entire state and we are committed to taking swift and decisive action to increase the safety of our communities.”
In a statement, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO Eileen Sigmund commanded the governor for “tackling this difficult but urgent issue.
“On behalf of the approximately 550 public charter schools serving 185,000 students across Arizona, the Arizona Charter Schools Association stands ready to work with Governor Ducey, members of his staff and legislators to address this important issue,” Sigmund said.
While the plan seemed to address a wide variety of issues that were raised in the wake of several mass shootings over the last couple of years, it was not met by everyone with open arms.
In a series of tweets, the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the plan failed to provide adequate details about the addition to school resource officers in Arizona schools.
The March For Our Lives Phoenix account, a student-organized march on Arizona’s Capitol building that will take place on Saturday, also said the plan failed to address some issues, including a ban on bump stocks.