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Wed, Sept. 18

Ducey’s school safety plan includes $11M for campus police

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey is working to cobble together the votes for his comprehensive school safety plan.

House and Senate Democrats have declared the package, just given to lawmakers, a non-starter because of its failure to require background checks when weapons are sold by individuals and at gun shows. Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, said it makes no sense to say some people cannot buy weapons from licensed gun dealers when “loopholes’’ in the law allow them to buy one anyway.

But Ducey also does not have universal support of fellow Republicans who are anxious about provisions which allow police officers to seize weapons and courts to hold people for psychological evaluation. Several told Capitol Media Services Wednesday that they will oppose the measure if there are not sufficient protections not only for the individual’s Second Amendment rights to possess a weapon, but also the Fourth Amendment rights against improper seizure of person and property by the government.

There also are are questions of whether additional laws are even necessary.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 at a Florida high school, had made multiple credible threats ahead of the incident, things he said could have allowed police to act.

“The law wasn’t the problem,’’ he said. “The performance of people was the problem.’’

He called it an “absolutely cruel deceit on people’’ to “put another law out there that looks politically expedient to solve a problem.’’

Gubernatorial press aide Dan Scarpinato defended the package.

“The current law is not strong enough,’’ he said. Scarpinato said the governor wants not only a “tougher’’ law but a broader one, allowing more people – including family members, roommates, teachers and others – to go to court on their own to ask a judge to have someone picked up and evaluated to see if their weapons should be seized.

It isn’t just the question of constitutional rights that is raising concerns.

House Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale, noted the package includes $11 million for additional state-paid school safety officers. That would add about 110 officers on top of the 113 already being funded by the state, not including those financed by local schools or governments.

“It has some costs to it,’’ he said. “I want to make sure it is not just window dressing to make it look like we’re doing something, but actually achieves the effect we want,’’ he said.

The heart of Ducey’s plan, though, is the “Stop Order of Protection.’’

It permits a police officer to take someone into custody and before a judge if there is “probable cause’’ to believe the person is a danger to self or others and is likely to cause serious physical injury to another “unless immediate action is taken.’’

Among the things a court can consider are things like a “credible threat of physical injury’’ and cruel mistreatment of an animal within the prior 14 days. If the judge agrees, the person can be held for up to 72 hours for evaluation, not including weekends and holidays.

A separate provision allows family members, significant others, roommates, teachers and others to go to court to seek their own order of protection. Here, too, there are similar requirements for proof of some acts a judge could use to hold someone for evaluation.

“This is where we’re walking a really fine line,’’ said Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert.

“We don’t want to remove people’s firearms simply on an allegation,’’ he said. “There has to be proof that a crime has been committed and that crime has risen to the level that somebody is at risk of being harmed.’’

Farnsworth also cited provisions that can deny someone’s constitutional rights to bear arms for longer than necessary, especially after a judge rejects a petition for an order of protection.

“Now, they’ve done nothing wrong,’’ he said. “That needs to be returned immediately.’’

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