PHOENIX - Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne proposed a plan Wednesday to allow one educator in each school to carry a gun after they receive free firearms training from law enforcement.
The proposal comes less than two weeks after a gunman fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators during a Dec. 14 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Horne said the program, which would first need legislative action to amend state law, is aimed at reducing the risk of similar shootings in Arizona.
Under the plan, which Horne said is backed by sheriffs in Pinal, Mohave and Apache counties, each public school could designate a principal or educator to keep the gun in a secure, locked location at the facility. It would limit gun-carriers to one per school and would be a voluntary program.
However, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu came out with his own, much broader plan on Wednesday aimed at training multiple educators per school to carry guns, noting his proposal and Horne's were "the difference between putting your toe in a pool or jumping in."
"And they should not be in a locked box these weapons," Babeu said. "Our schools are not as safe as we think they are, and we need to do something about it."
Some schools around the state already have an armed law enforcement presence through the so-called school resource officer program, but budget constraints have cut it back.
"The ideal solution would be to have an armed police officer in each school," Horne said, echoing calls from the National Rifle Association since the Connecticut shootings.
The next best thing, he said, is to arm an educator, comparing that proposal to allowing pilots to carry guns after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, called the plan "a horrible, horrible idea."
"Teachers are not cops. Teachers are not military. Their job is to teach our kids, not to be worried about how to defend themselves in a tactical situation." Campbell said Wednesday, adding that he will instead push for additional funding to fully restore the school resource officer program.
"That's where we need to focus our money," Campbell said. "The last thing you want is a bunch of people with guns at schools making situations worse."
Babeu said his plan would focus on arming as many educators as possible on a volunteer basis, even those who work at schools where a law enforcement officer already is present. Horne's plan would limit gun-toting teachers to schools where there is no armed presence.
"If a bunch of teachers brought guns to school, I'm fearful the kids could get access to them," Horne said.
Apache County Sheriff Joe Dedman said the issue needs to be studied more before authorities approach the Legislature.
"I'm not ruling out any of the ideas," he said.
Trish Carter, a spokeswoman for Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, said he was "on board" with Horne's idea, but noted it was too soon to comment or offer specific details.
Currently, only Utah and Kansas allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools. In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, more than 200 teachers in Utah signed up for free concealed-weapons training being offered Thursday by the Utah Shooting Sports Council.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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