Ted Simons: A bill to allow certain staff members in mostly rural school districts to carry concealed weapons on campus is being considered by the state legislature. Joining us tonight is the bill's sponsor, Senator Rich Crandall. And speaking against the bill is Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us. All right. Why is this necessary?
Rich Crandall: When you look at school safety, there is a mental health component, school resource officers. But there's also a component of self-defense. And primarily for your rural districts, Wikieup, the closest law enforcement is all the way in Kingman.
Ted Simons: I think they include military and law enforcement, as well? Who gets to carry these weapons?
Rich Crandall: This is not just something that was thought up over a weekend. This is very thoughtful. We called around the United States and said, who's doing something good in the policy of self-defense. You go to Texas rural school districts, they have had the policy in place since October of . A small district where the closest law enforcement is minutes away, a teacher can carry a weapon but only after a permit, training. They have very, very specific rules.
Ted Simons: Why not arm staff in these small, remote schools? Why not?
Leah Landrum Taylor: I understand the portion of making sure we are looking at the whole discussion as it relates to school safety. When we're talking about arming the teachers, one of the things is to make sure the actual school boards determine who would be eligible to carry these various weapons. I'm very concerned about a School Board member actually engaging to make a decision like that. Also the fact, just, you know, the conversation that was just discussed about Texas. There was a recent incident, because Texas has decided, let's go ahead and do this. In the middle of this training a teacher was accidentally shot. So with that being the case, you know, I don't know how much liability we would move with that. I'd rather take a look at safety assessments for each of the schools. That's very important to look at this. Also on the front end portion, about making sure we have enough school counselors and psychologists. When you look at the fact that over % of the American public in general, with a poll taken in January, is not in favor of a teacher carrying a weapon on school grounds. What kind of weapons are we talking about? I'm very curious to know.
Ted Simons: What kind of weapons, A. And B, are we talking about people who are ex-law enforcement or ex-military only? Or anyone else on staff?
Rich Crandall: It could be anyone else. I called and spoke to the superintendent of one of these very small school districts. I love Senator Landrum-Taylor, we're very good friends, but she's wrong. We're talking K-, kids, kids, kids. You can't afford to have all those pieces in place. Only pistols or revolvers, the bill says. Must have ammunition that doesn't ricochet.
Ted Simons: Is it one person or anyone on staff?
Rich Crandall: It could be anyone. I called down to Texas and spoke to the superintendent that had the policy in place the longest. We go into executive session with the school board. We talk about individuals who have applied for the program.
Ted Simons: What have you heard of the shooting during the training?
Rich Crandall: I've never heard of the teacher shooting before, so I'm not sure if there was training along with this bill or not.
Ted Simons: What have you got there?
Leah Landrum Taylor: It's an article that was taken right here. I do have the article if you want to take a peek at it. A teacher was accidentally shot during this training. A lot of other issues go with this. Even AZ Post has a very big concern about making sure there's a proper amount of training. Who would take on the funding for that? Schools are already strapped with the over $ billion cut in the last three years over education. How would this happen? A board member would have to make a determination that these are the individuals deemed okay to carry these particular weapons. That's of major, major concern. I'm not sure how they would go about doing that. Liability just alone for the various school districts, if an individual accidentally lays the gun down, and there's other articles about the security guard that left the gun in the rest room.
Ted Simons: If it were narrowed down to one person in the school, if it had to be ex-law enforcement or ex-military or something along these lines, and again, we're talking rural areas where you're a far distance from military and/or law enforcement. Would that make a difference?
Leah Landrum Taylor: This bill actually is very, very broad. It does open it up to anyone. Quite frankly, there are maybe ways that we could go about partnering in, whether it's with DPS or highway patrol, they are always around, as well. If they were in the parking lot for instance, working on paperwork, as a deterrent factor at a school that's close by, there are other ways. Look at the design of the school, how it's laid out. One entrance in, one entrance out for visitors. There's a lot of things you could promote in school safety in having an assessment. But going this direction right here, this is very broad.
Ted Simons: Please.
Rich Crandall: One problem we all have, we are both Maricopa County lawmakers. We see things through that lens. We're talking Crown King with nine students, students. There is no -- a school resource officer costs upwards of 70,80 ,90 thousand dolars. It's not going to happen. Saying you can do nothing in the area of self-defense isn't appropriate, either.
Leah Landrum Taylor: But you can partner in quite frankly with a school resource officer or a counselor, someone at a high school or an elementary school.
Rich Crandall: Crown King is an hour from anybody. There's no school counselor. Nine students and you're an hour from the closest anything. There's no highway.
Leah Landrum Taylor: Fortunately with this, accidents could occur on the campus. My thinking again, this bill is what we're talking about right now. It's extremely broad. We're talking about anyone that could be deemed as okay to be able to carry that weapon. We don't know. And also in the bill it states that they have to have a previous -- looking at the previous reactions to a crisis before they authorize. What if there was never a crisis in the schools?
Rich Crandall: It says it must consider if there were a previous, how do they respond to that.
Ted Simons: Liability was raised. A concern?
Rich Crandall: I said, have you had any problems whatsoever in the six years you've had the bill in place. He said absolutely not, we haven't had any problems.
Ted Simons: Can it be focused a little more?
Rich Crandall: It always can be. It has to go through the Senate full body and then over to the House, many opportunities.
Leah Landrum Taylor: I think we really need to take a look at different assessments and looking on the front end of different types of prevention. Because it's a small school does not mean many of the children may not have a need still for mental health services, as well.
Rich Crandall: Good point.
Ted Simons: Let's stop it right there, then. Good to have you both joining us.
Rich Crandall: Thank you, appreciate that.