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12:16 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Searching for common ground on gun issues

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference on wildfire season as state Forester Jeff Whitney and fire crews look on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in Phoenix, Ariz. Whitney said the upcoming fire season could be one of the worst in his 45 years in firefighting because of the lack of rain across the state’s grasslands, chaparral and pine forests. (AP photo)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a news conference on wildfire season as state Forester Jeff Whitney and fire crews look on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in Phoenix, Ariz. Whitney said the upcoming fire season could be one of the worst in his 45 years in firefighting because of the lack of rain across the state’s grasslands, chaparral and pine forests. (AP photo)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey isn’t interested in arming teachers as a way to deal with school violence.

“I want to see our teachers be put in a position where they can teach our kids,” the governor said Thursday, “and I think that’s what they signed up to do.”

The question arose in the wake of last week’s school shooting at a Florida high school.

During debate over whether to allow a vote to ban “bump stocks,” House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, listed a variety of reasons she believes such shootings happen.

Those include everything from the ease of legal abortion to kids on psychotropic drugs. Townsend said those issues need to be addressed.

“In the meantime, we need to make it so that either the teachers or security guard or police officers, veterans, however the schools want to do this, arm those persons so that it is first, a deterrent, and second, to stop before it becomes worse,” she argued. “The majority of these mass shootings occur in gun-free zones.”

Townsend isn’t the first to suggest the idea.

David Stevens, a state representative from Sierra Vista in 2013, proposed legislation to allow a designated school employee to be trained to carry a firearm and possess it on campus. It never became law.

That same year, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the state should consider programs where trained teachers or other school personnel could carry a weapon, or at least would have access to a weapon in a defined emergency.

But Ducey said Thursday he’s more interested in solutions where there is “common ground on how to address this issue.”

For him, that’s dealing with loopholes on background checks and mental health.

And what of weapons on campus?

The governor said that should be the job of school resource officers, “people that are there in charge of security so the teachers can go ahead and teach.

“That’s the better solution,” Ducey said.

The governor’s press aide, Daniel Scarpinato, said his boss “absolutely” is willing to put more state funds into helping hire resource officers, trained police assigned to schools.

Scarpinato said Ducey first wants to see what the needs are, noting that some districts already have arrangements with local police departments to put officers in schools. He also said there are some federal funds available to schools.

The governor sidestepped a question of whether he would support legislation that makes certain weapons off limits to those younger than 21.

President Trump on Wednesday said he wants such a restriction for certain weapons, though he provided no details. That drew a quick response from the National Rifle Association which said it would deny teens the right of self-defense.

“I’m going to focus on background checks and school resource officers,” Trump said.