Ducey's Arizona School Safety Plan Receives Pushback From 2nd Amendment, Gun Safety Activists

By Claire Caulfield
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, April 13, 2018 - 3:33pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (2.32 MB)

Arizona Gov. Dough Ducey’s plan for school safety is receiving pushback from both sides.

On Thursday a gun safety group formed by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said the plan is insufficient to protect the public against future mass shootings, while gun rights activists are claiming it infringes on the Second Amendment.

Senate Bill 1519, set for debate Monday before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety, includes additional school resource officers and money for counseling.

But at the heart of the plan are Severe Threat Orders of Protection, or “STOP” orders.

The debate is about the process that would allow family members, significant others and school administrators to petition a court seeking to have someone evaluated. Getting that initial evaluation requires evidence of things like "a pattern of threats to cause death or serious physical injury,'' a recent credible threat to kill or injure someone, cruel mistreatment of animals, and a conviction of a violent crime.

Based on that, a judge can order police to pick up the person for an evaluation and take any weapons in plain sight. Then, after that evaluation, there's another court hearing to determine if that denial of access to weapons should be extended.

Peter Ambler, the executive director of the gun safety group formed by Giffords after she was severely injured in a 2011 mass shooting that left six others dead, said the proposal "creates an unreasonably long, cumbersome and loophole-ridden process'' for suspending the access the dangerous people have to weapons.

"This plan does not do enough to ensure that courts and concerned family and community members can act -- and act quickly -- to avert shootings, suicides and other tragedies,'' Ambler said. He said that there would still need to be two full-blown court hearings before a judge could suspend someone's access to guns.

But Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said there should be significant legal hurdles before law enforcement can seize weapons or conduct mental evaluations.

"We're not talking about just taking people's guns,'' Farnsworth said. "We're talking about incarcerating them for the purpose of a psychological evaluation against their will, potentially infringing upon their First Amendment rights, and infringing heavily upon their Second Amendment rights.''