Originally Published: January 18, 2018 6:01 a.m.
PHOENIX — A Gilbert lawmaker wants to give those on public university campuses more self-defense options.
Republican Rep. Travis Grantham said he isn’t asking for guns on campuses. That perennial proposal by other lawmakers has never made it into law.
But Grantham said the policies at the state’s three universities prohibiting weapons leaves students, faculty, staff and others at the mercy of attackers.
His HB 2172 would require schools that get public funds to allow “non-lethal weapons.” That is described as devices “explicitly designed and developed to incapacitate or repel a person with a low probability of fatality or permanent injury.”
Most immediately, if the measure is enacted into law, it would overrule a Board of Regents policy that bans virtually all weapons, including Chemical Mace.
Regents’ spokeswoman Sarah Harper said the board had no immediate response to what Grantham is proposing. But she noted the Board’s existing policy allows “normally available over-the-counter self-defense chemical repellents.”
But Grantham said the wording of that policy prohibits those repellents from containing sufficient quantities of a key ingredient: oleoresin capsicum, essentially a chili oil extract. He contends virtually all effective forms of what is commonly called “pepper spray” contain that chemical, and he believes repellents without that chemical are virtually useless.
“It’s kind of like saying you can have a gun, but you can’t have bullets in it,” Grantham said.
The first-term lawmaker said there should be no objection.
“We’re not talking about guns,” he said, saying the only aim is to let someone disable an attacker.
What would that include?
“It’s kind of at the discretion, quite honestly, of the user,” Grantham said. But he said it definitely would include the pepper sprays containing oleoresin capsicum.
“You could probably lump stun guns into that,” he continued, “anything that’s meant to incapacitate somebody just long enough so you could get away from them if they’re trying to commit a crime against you.”
Grantham said there is a need to overturn the regents’ policy, especially with “sprawling” university campuses.
“Some of these students are coming out of these campuses at 10 or 11 or 12 o’clock at night, in downtown parts of the city,” Grantham explained.
“And they do feel a little bit uneasy because there’s a lot of people out,” he continued. “And you don’t know who it is. You’re not confined to the safety of the university campus.”
What gives lawmakers the power to override policy is money.
“If the universities are going to take state funding, and if they’re going to expand rapidly like they’re doing now, and if they’re going to be in various parts of the state throughout our metropolitan areas, I think it makes perfect sense that students should be able to carry the same non-lethal type of weapons that you’re able to carry when you’re walking down a city street,” he said.
Grantham said his definition of what kind of non-lethal weapons would be permitted is designed to take into account other kinds of things that exist -- or may in the future.
That includes special flashlights already availabl e which are advertised as being able to blind and confuse attackers. Grantham’s legislation, if it becomes law, also would pave the way for personal devices on campuses that are designed to emit certain sounds that could confuse and stun someone.
While Grantham said his focus is on university campuses, his legislation also would affect community colleges.
The measure has been assigned to the House Education Committee. No date has been set for a hearing.