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House passes new bill allowing non-lethal weapons on campus

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – A bill allowing the possession of non-lethal weapons on Arizona community colleges and public universities has passed in the House.

HB 2172 would prohibit any college or university in Arizona under the Community College District Governing Board or the Arizona Board of Regents from disallowing open-carry of non-lethal weapons to increase self-defense on campus.

Rep. Travis Grantham, the bill’s primary sponsor, told The State Press Thursday that the increased number of sexual assaults and violent incidents involving female students “motivated” him to propose the bill.

“The only step that would make (personal safety) more of a guarantee is if we allowed concealed carry (on campus) like we do in the rest of the state,” Grantham told the Press. “This is a great compromise and great solution to allowing folks to defend themselves.”

The safety of students and faculty on campus has been a topic of discussion in the U.S. since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, killing 17.

The bill has not gained the support from members of the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body of Arizona’s public universities.

The regents held a special session and came out against the legislation on Feb. 23, releasing a statement calling the language of the bill too “vague” for it’s use of the term “non-lethal weapons.”

“The Arizona legislature gives authority to the Arizona Board of Regents to set policy for campus safety and we are continuously evaluating our policies and practices to keep students safe,” President of the Arizona Board of Regents Eileen Klein said in a release.

“The uncertainty of the changes contemplated and the potential risk to students, faculty and staff far outweighs any benefit.”

The bill defines the term “non-lethal” as a weapon “that is explicitly designed and developed to incapacitate or repel a person with a low probability of fatality or permanent injury.”

Grantham told the Press that these types of weapons include stun guns, mace and pepper spray, but Klein said that ammunition meant to deliver blunt force trauma to individuals are also considered non-lethal according to the Department of Defense.

The bill has gained mixed reactions from students at Arizona State University.

Aly Perkins, the senate president of the Undergraduate Student Government at the university’s Downtown campus, told the Press that the bill has some flaws within the language.

“On one hand, this bill will allow non-lethal weapons like mace to be used on campus,” she said.

“Because of the government’s broad definition of a non-lethal weapon, it will also encompass weapons like flash grenades and other weapons that aren’t necessarily lethal but can cause serious harm.”

The bill passed with a 30-22 vote in the House of Representatives on Feb. 15. Now, the bill awaits a hearing from the education committee in the Senate.

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