University Presidents Speak Out Against Arizona Gun Bills

VIDEO: Lawmakers consider allowing faculty and students to carry guns on campus.

Two weeks after a shooting incident that left six people dead outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., two new bills remain in the Arizona Legislature that would loosen gun controls, specifically on college campuses. Neither proposal sits well with the heads of the state's public universities.

Guns and college campuses simply don't mix, the presidents of Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona say.

If the measures pass, Arizona State in Tempe would follow the law but "it's a bad idea," President Michael Crow said.

"The creation of a safe environment for high-intensity learning doesn't permit guns on campus, besides the police," Crow said.

Arizona House Bill 2001 which was filed mid-December would allow faculty to "possess a concealed firearm on the grounds of a community college … a provisional community college … or a university … if the faculty member possesses a valid permit."

A second bill, House Bill 2014, introduced in late December would effectively stop the governing board of any university, college or community college to "enact or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits the possession of a concealed weapon by a person who possesses a valid permit…"

The president of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff is among those who're worried about the proposals.

"Part of the reason is that I think that it will create a climate on campus that is not what you want on an institution," John Haeger said. "That has a very chilling impact on it."

At the University of Arizona, a few miles from where a gunman allegedly attempted Jan. 8 to assassinate U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was among the 13 wounded, President Robert Shelton expressed similar concern.

"I am unilaterally, completely opposed to that," Shelton said. " When I talk to all the law enforcement officials of Tucson Police Department and the University of Arizona Police Department … they say it's a bad idea for them."

But the bills' sponsor, State Rep. Jack Harper, remained undeterred. "With four hours of range time on gun safety, four hours of classroom time on gun laws of Arizona, an FBI background check, I feel that faculty members with a [Concealed Carry Weapon permit] should no longer be sitting ducks on Arizona's colleges and university campuses," the Republican said in a statement on January 20.

Harper's office declined an interview for this story.

Harper introduced a bill similar to HB 2001 last February as a state senator, but it got caught up in committees and never reached the floor. It is unclear if the two bills introduced in December will in fact reach a vote, or how long it could take if stalled in committees.

Gun Bills Spark Debate

Arizona is not the only state weighing this kind of legislation. Florida's legislature is also is considering loosening gun laws, which includes granting licensed gun owners the right to openly carry their firearms, including on college campuses.

Utah is the only state that requires its colleges to allow both students and faculty to carry concealed guns on its campuses. And just this week a Utah House committee voted to endorse a bill that would make the semiautomatic pistol the state's firearm, adding to a long list of state symbols. Read the bill HERE.

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