Heated debate over Valley principals carrying guns to school

PHOENIX - It's a controversial issue that has parents in a heated debate: should principals be allowed to carry guns in schools?

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is pushing for it, and he's backed by several of our state's sheriffs.

Here's a breakdown of Horne's proposal:

  • A principal or designated person would be allowed to carry a weapon after being trained. 
  • Horne says only one gun would be permitted per school. 
  • The gun would be locked up. 
  • Educators would be trained for free on marksmanship and judgement.
  • Horne says they would also have to go through an "emotional fitness" test.
  • The program would be optional for schools without an armed police officer, or school resource officer, on campus.
  • Horne says the sheriffs from Pinal, Apache, and Mohave counties are onboard with the idea.

Horne called the program a "middle ground" option. He says he would rather have school resource officers at all campuses but budget cuts have taken away from that program significantly. 

"I think if it's only one designated person and that person has been well trained and keeps the gun in a secure place, it can only provide more security and that's what parents are looking for," Horne said. He said he came up with the idea after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Parents had mixed opinions a day after Horne's announcement.

"Who's to say they don't go off and start shooting," Deanie Wilson, a mom in Phoenix, asked. "(Educators) are humans too." 

Wilson said she took her children out of a private school because the principal had weapons.

"The principal had Samurai swords in his office. I didn't feel safe with them there either," she said.

Gladys Quarante, from Scottsdale, has three children in the Scottsdale and Paradise Valley school districts. Quarante said she's leaning against the proposal until more details are flushed out.

"For now, I just want to make sure there are no guns anywhere near the children," Quarante said. "I won't even let my kids in a house where there are guns, even hunting guns. You could be just showing a gun and you open it and boom," she said.

Edward Rico, a father from Phoenix, has experienced gun violence firsthand. He supports Horne's proposal. 

"I just lost a son in March, over a house party, and somebody started shooting randomly," Rico said. "He got shot in the head. He was a 17-year old kid. I'm all for it. When you got an idiotic person coming in that's psycho because he's depressed or something, (principals) should be able to protect students and himself."

Regina Phelps-Kagemann, from Peoria, is a substitute teacher and mother. 

"I don't think guns should be allowed in schools whatsoever," she said. "Innocent children can be killed." 

Phelps-Kagemann offered her own ideas.

"(School resource officers should be) a mandatory thing (and) it's a good idea that they scan these kids when they're going through each school because you never know what can be stashed."

Horne said his solution is the best alternative next to having armed officers at schools. 

"What can we do to minimize the danger of this happening again?" Horne asked. "On the one hand, you have people proposing that any teacher bring a gun to school. I think that would create more danger than it would solve. I'm opposed to that. You have other people who don't want to do anything as far as defense in schools. I think we could regret that if there were another incident that might have been prevented."

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