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Arizona Democrats propose gun control, school safety measures

Arizona Senate Democrats are expected to release details of their proposals to reduce gun violence in the state on Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday, the House Minority Leader unveiled his own proposal to try to make schools safer. From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports.

MARK BRODIE: Phoenix Democrat Chad Campbell wants to require background checks on all gun sales at gun shows, reinstate training requirements for getting a concealed weapons permit and restrict access to guns for people who’ve been deemed a risk to themselves or others after undergoing a mental health evaluation. Campbell says he tried to take a reasonable approach.

CHAD CAMPBELL: Unless you’re a criminal or a person dealing with mental health issues, there is not a gun owner in this state that has to worry about this taking any gun out of your hands.

BRODIE: But, Charles Heller disagrees. He’s the spokesman for Arizona Citizens Defense League, a pro-Second Amendment group.

CHARLES HELLER: There is no reason whatsoever for the government to get any more involved in so-called background checks. This whole controversy is merely a kerfuffle to try and drive people into a government solution. It’s an absolute scam.

BRODIE: Heller also doesn’t like the idea of not allowing people with mental health issues access to their guns without a court finding, among other criticisms. In addition to the gun control measures, Campbell is also proposing to double the number of school counselors in the state, and triple funding for School Resource Officers. Those proposals, along with a few others, would cost an estimated $100 million. That’s on top of $161 million to expand Medicaid, and reinstate services for seriously mentally ill Arizonans who aren’t covered by Medicaid.

TIM OGLE: We all know that the state of Arizona doesn’t have that kind of money to spend in this legislative session.

BRODIE: Tim Ogle is the Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association.

OGLE: And so, we’re in this game of having wonderful proposals and ideas, all of which will help protect our children, and we need to now wrestle with the difficult value judgments attached to that.

BRODIE: Ogle says he sees the proposal as a positive – especially since it allows each school district to determine its own needs.

OGLE: Certainly we know that our local school leaders, board members and superintendents, have close working relationships with local first responders. And, those are the people, obviously, with the training and the resources to protect our children.

BRODIE: Wednesday’s proposal comes on the heels of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s volunteer posse starting patrols around some schools, and ideas about training and then arming principals or someone else at each school. Arizona Education Association President Andrew Morrill doesn’t like that plan.

ANDREW MORRILL: Educators don’t want to become armed bodyguards. And, you don’t reduce the violence on campuses in Arizona or anywhere else by increasing the number of firearms on a campus.

BRODIE: And, even the Citizens Defense League’s Charles Heller likes some of Chad Campbell’s ideas - including requiring all school districts to conduct threat assessments, and providing grant money to shore up some of their vulnerabilities. Heller also likes the idea of more School Resource Officers, but says more cops don’t necessarily increase safety.

HELLER: If the school resource officers are in a classroom and teaching something, teaching a drug class or something like that, they’re not gonna be that much help to security. If they’re out patrolling a campus, then yeah, it’s a great idea.

BRODIE: The ideas Senate Democrats are expected to propose later Thursday include background checks on all gun purchases, and banning the sale and possession of ammunition clips that hold more than ten rounds. But, it’s not clear if any of those proposals will make it through the GOP-controlled legislature.