Wednesday, April 02, 2008

SB1214 is headed to the floor; will UA students, faculty, and staff win the right to self-defense?

Arizona has had a "shall issue" policy for issuance of CCW permits since 1994, but hearing it from some, you'd think that concealed carry is still a novelty, and that we simply don't know if people will start committing aggravated assault --or worse, shooting each other--left and right, if guns will "go off", etc.

The rhetoric we've been hearing about Senator Karen Johnson's SB1214, which would merely extend the right of CCW permit holders to allow carry at Arizona's state universities, has been, for the most part, a repeat of what we've heard every time firearms liberalization has been proposed since Florida didn't become the "Gunshine State" in the late 1980s: incredulity, fanciful scenarioes, and personal ignorance. European professors perhaps get a pass (with an admonishment tacked on: start learning about your host country, and reading Barbara Ehrenreich or Howard Zinn does not count!), but undergraduates who've for the most part lived in a concealed carry state since before they learned to read and faculty who've interacted peacefully with people packing heat in movie theaters, grocery stores, and plenty of stressful traffic encounters for over a decade have no excuse.

Perhaps this debate is even more obnoxious than usual; many of the "antis" don't even know what the bill does and talk about "kids" "running around" with guns as though SB1214 enables schoolchildren to carry. It doesn't even allow eighteen year old college students, who can at any time enlist in the military and be given responsibility for a burst-firing M16, to carry. All it does is to remove a nonsensical geographic restriction of the right to carry, allowing those of us who work or study (or, in my case, both) at a state university the to effectively defend ourselves against armed attackers at, to, and from University grounds.

The debate over firearms liberalization has been going on for over two decades, yet quite a few of our elected officials have been too busy to learn the basics. Take, for example, the discussion in the Democratic caucus:

Democratic Caucus Notes:

SB 1214 concealed weapons; school grounds
SPONSOR: JOHNSON JUD 2/25/2008 DPA (4-3-0-0)
RULES 3/10/2008 PFCA

Purpose (For more information see Fact Sheet): Allows a person with a
valid concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit to possess a concealed
firearm on the grounds of a community college or university.

[snipped RTS names--BSK]

Amanda Rohrkemper (Dem. Intern) explained the bill.

Sen. Cheuvront: They did make some good points how discipline could
really be increased if the teacher had a firearm in his/her possession.

Caucus chuckled.

Sen. Cheuvront: The people in support of this bill justify it by the
large amount of training. The problem is that they don't receive that
much training.

Sen. Aboud: I actually took two of these CCW courses, and I feel that at
least half the people don't have an adequate amount of gun knowledge.

Sen. Burton-Cahill: Maybe this is the time for us to increase the amount
of training for CCW holders. We should require more time out on the
range as well as in the classroom. In the last seven years, we've taken
the renewing training from four hours to two hours to absolutely
nothing. I'd like to propose a Floor Amendment that increases the
education for a CCW permit. It will also reinstate some sort of
training or testing to see whether additional training is needed.

Sen. Cheuvront: What kind of mental health is considered when issuing a
CCW permit?

Sen. Burton-Cahill: To that point, my father had several strokes last
fall and is now not permitted to drive. However, if he did have a CCW
permit, there would be nothing stopping him from continuing to hold it.

Amanda: To receive a CCW permit, a person must not suffer from a mental
illness. There are also other qualifications.

Sen. Cheuvront: Those are initial tests, but are they continually

Christina Estes-Werther (Research Staff): There is a criminal background
check taken every five years. I'd also like to mention that in
Republican Caucus, there was a concern that this bill does not address
university lockdown situations. Therefore, there may be a Floor
Amendment to address that.

Sen. Cheuvront: These people are not trained for this type of police

Apparently Ken Cheuvront thinks self-defense is "police work", and moreover thinks aggravated assault is a laughing matter. Perhaps Cheuvront Wine and Cheese has the police hanging out like the bodyguard ninjas in Curse of the Golden Flower, ready to drop out of the rafters to defend against all threats, but they're not to be found in my lab, the Mountain Avenue bike path, dormitories, or sorority house lawns.

Aboud's remarks are a little more well-taken. Perhaps training could be better, although the "antis" haven't come forward with even anecdotes of irresponsible CCW holders missing their targets and doing more harm then good. Nonetheless, many (who seem to get their notions of police skill with firearms from movies) feel that it takes a policeman's training to effectively defend one's self with a gun, to the point where adding such a requirement may mean the difference between victory and defeat for the right of people like me to carry to and from their workplace. Ergo a floor amendment to be introduced by Karen Johnson later today when the bill gets its third read, requiring those who'd carry in campus buildings to pass the firing test required of police officers.

That's an easy compromise if there ever was one; let's hope it does the trick. I've been working hard for the past few weeks helping the Students for Concealed Carry in the uphill battle to educate our clueless peers and the even more clueless general public about SB1214; we're here to stay even if the bill stays. Check back for updates.

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