On Thursday, Jan. 20, the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 1123, which would allow individuals with concealed weapon permits to have firearms on Arizona's college campuses if fully approved.
The bill passed 4-3.
Current policy at the University of Arizona prohibits the possession, display or storage of any weapons on all UA campuses and properties. This includes the concealed carry of weapons with a valid permit. An exemption to this policy can be requested and must be approved by the University of Arizona Police Department's chief of police.
If passed by the Arizona house, senate and then signed by the governor, SB 1123 would allow individuals with concealed carry permits to carry their weapons on college campuses in Arizona, including in classrooms and dorms.
“Notwithstanding subsection D of this section, the governing board of any university, college or community college shall not enact or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits the possession of a concealed weapon by a person who possesses a valid permit recognized or issued pursuant to section 13-3112 or the transportation or storage of a firearm pursuant to section 12-781,” section G of SB 1123 reads.
Section D of SB 1123 refers to the maintenance of public order on the campuses of educational institutions, while ARS 12-781 refers to the regulations surrounding the transportation of firearms within the state of Arizona.
In Arizona, an individual must be at least 21 years old, or 19 with provided “evidence of current military service or proof of honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions,” from a U.S. military organization, according to ARS 13-3112.
“This is the proverbial campus carry bill,” said Senator Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, who introduced the bill. “I am a believer that guns save lives, and if a college student has a concealed carry weapons permit, then he or she should be able to carry on campus and thus make the campus safer.”
Multiple guests in attendance at the Jan. 20 meeting got up to voice their disapproval of the bill, urging a no vote, citing concerns about mental health and a potential rise in gun violence on Arizona’s college campuses. Amongst the speakers was Michael Thompson, ASU’s current chief of police.
“I am here to respectfully oppose Senate Bill 1123,” Thompson said. “I’ve worked in a university setting since 2008, and I’m here to tell you from firsthand experience that university students make very poor decisions on a daily basis, sometimes hourly basis. Adding guns to an already high risk environment of alcohol, drugs, overreaction, lack of experience, life experience and immaturity is a very dangerous combination.”
Thompson encouraged that policy decisions such as SB 1123 be taken into consideration with the advice and expertise of law enforcement officials from college campuses.
RELATED: From classroom to courtroom: UA students can now become part of the solution to Arizona’s legal desert problem
“Concealed carry weapons permit requirements are weak in Arizona. A person can obtain one without training in firearms, weapons or showing proficiency," said Jodi Liggett, a professional lobbyist representing the League of Women Voters. “Therefore, to assume holding a permit mitigates such a danger of guns on campus is wrong. In addition, there is no practical way to enforce this.”
Proponents of SB 1123, including a guest speaker who was the only person in favor of the bill, emphasizes that only individuals with valid concealed carry permits would be allowed to carry firearms on campuses, not just anyone. As laid out in ARS 13-3112, individuals must complete some sort of firearms safety or training course in order to obtain a concealed carry permit in the state of Arizona.
“We don’t have an official statement. Ultimately our role is to educate and enforce the laws of this state, so we avoid getting involved in debates [about] what it should be,” Jesus Aguilar, a UAPD police officer said via email.
“As a state agency, our practice is not to comment on pending legislation,” said Pam Scott, associate vice president for external communications at the UA, via email.
Follow Sean Meixner on Twitter