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Arizona Legislature considers bill allowing guns on campus

A bill that passed the state Senate and is now before the House would allow anyone with a valid concealed carry permit to carry a weapon on campus.
Arizona Legislature considers bill allowing guns on campus
Posted at 8:24 PM, Apr 04, 2024

A bill introduced by the Arizona state Senate would allow people to carry a gun on university and college campuses if they hold a valid concealed carry permit. If the bill is passed, it would trigger changes to rules at colleges and universities across the Grand Canyon State that ban firearms on campus grounds.  

ASU, University of Arizona, and the Maricopa Community Colleges Faculty Association, which oversees 10 community colleges, have policies in place banning firearms on school grounds. 

The concealed weapon bill known as SB 1198 was introduced by Republican Sens. Wendy Rogers, Dave Farnsworth and Republican Rep. Leo Biasiucci. 

The bill would allow anyone with a valid concealed carry permit to carry a weapon on campus and ban universities and colleges from implementing rules or policies that prevent firearms on school grounds.   

"It speaks to us being able to protect ourselves in an increasingly dangerous environment, especially college campuses," Rogers said in a Senate Judiciary meeting in February.  

Many students at ASU tell Scripps News they take their safety seriously and find the bill concerning. 

Jordan McMullen, a freshman studying engineering at ASU said as a Texas native he is against the bill.  

"I think that's also just inviting way too many possibilities of a negative outcome,"  McMullen said. 

"You want to have that college experience, but you also want to be safe," ASU senior Lauren Cooper said.  

Armei Forster walked alongside a couple of friends on the university campus. She commutes for classes during the day and at night and admits it can get a little scary around campus.  

"I'm weary, especially as a woman," said Forster, but she added that guns on campus are not the answer. "For me personally, it does make me feel safe that there are no guns on campus." 

Dr. Barry Vaughan, a philosophy professor and the chairman of the Maricopa Colleges Faculty Association Political Action Committee, which is part of the Maricopa Community Colleges Faculty Association, calls the bill a political ploy to score points with supporters. He points to polls that prove most people do not feel safe with guns on college campuses.  

"This is a position that's a commonsense position; it's a pragmatic position," Vaughan said. 

A recent Gallup poll found 1 in 3 current college students in the U.S. worry about gun violence on campus, and 84% of current or prospective students surveyed indicated they prefer a college that would ban or restrict the possession of guns. 

SEE MORE: Concealed guns could be coming soon to Wyoming schools, meetings

In 1819, former President Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and in 1824, during the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting Jefferson and former President James Madison opposed weapons within the precincts of the University.  

“They voted to ban, to prohibit firearms on campus — this is the author of the Declaration of Independence, this is the father of the Bill of Rights,” Vaughan exclaimed. “James Madison wrote the Second Amendment, and he voted in favor of prohibiting firearms on campus.” 

Conner Miskowiec graduated from college several years ago, and as someone who leans more conservative, he admitted he was conflicted.   

"There's a lot of emotions already on college campuses, like depression, mental health. This is kind of where it starts with stress and everything, so I'm going to go ahead and say probably not a good idea." Miskowiec concluded.  

Supporters of the bill argue that it’s their right to bear arms, and say that it will help students protect themselves.  

"This is not a good guy with a gun bill, this is the ability to defend yourself, which is our constitutional right in the state of Arizona," Michael Infanzon, who supports the bill, said at the Senate Judiciary meeting in February. 

Legislation tied to guns on campus grounds also surfaced in Virginia and Colorado.  

This year, Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed two bills that made it illegal to possess a firearm in a building owned or operated by a public college. 

In Colorado, Senate Bill 24-131 seeks to ban carrying a firearm openly and concealed in sensitive public places including college campuses. 

The University of Colorado is also considering banning concealed carry on all their campuses.  

The success of SB 1198 is uncertain, but previous rulings give insight into its future. In 2023, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a similar bill to SB 1198, writing that it could lead to greater anxiety among students, staff and faculty. 

SB 1198 passed the Arizona Senate and is now before the state House. 

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