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10:50 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Wiederaenders Column: Stun guns on campus are a start

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With great regret America witnessed another senseless act of killing this past week. A high school in Parkland, Florida, was the site of the worst school shooting — with 17 dead — since the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed 26 lives.

It joins too many similar incidents in recent years (the exact number is up for debate, depending on circumstances and who’s counting).

Regardless, in the days that followed, talk of gun control on one side and guns on campus on the other was renewed nationwide.

In Arizona, lawmakers also waded into those waters this past week.

The Republican-controlled legislature has tried but failed in recent years to allow firearms on campuses for the purpose of self-defense. But when one road is closed, it seems, we will find a different route.

Under a bill sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, state university and community college students would be allowed to carry pepper spray, stun guns and other “non-lethal” weapons. The bill was approved 35-22 by the House late Thursday; it now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Grantham said he was prompted by policies at some universities that he believes ban the active ingredient in the most effective chemical sprays. While the

Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, last week revised policies to clarify that students could carry all common chemical sprays and alarms, their policy still bans stun guns, Tasers and most other non-lethal weapons.

The Board of Regents and several community colleges adamantly oppose Grantham’s legislation.

“Let’s face it — this bill would allow students to arm themselves with just about anything but a big gun,” Regents President Eileen Klein said. “And the risk to students, faculty and other campus visitors outweighs any other benefits that this bill could bring.”

Let’s consider a few points:

• Grantham suggests someone wanting self-defense may be allergic to pepper spray and needs options. “There’s new stuff coming on the market all the time,” he told the Associated Press. “Why restrict it to just pepper spray, or just a stun gun?”

• On the opposite side is Klein, who slammed the proposal, not liking that Taser International is a chief proponent because the company’s aim is to sell more weapons, not keep students safe. Taser’s lobbyist testified for the bill in committee.

• Finally, the Legislature — the House in this case — likely did not advance the bill last week because of the Florida mass shooting. Bills are born weeks, if not months, prior to when the session opens.

Yet, all of this is curious.

Unfortunately, even Grantham admits, stun guns are non-lethal devices more suited for self-defense — for example, sexual assault. A stun gun requires close-quarters contact and would be more difficult to use in stopping an active shooter on campus. Pepper spray, if used incorrectly, ends up being only a nuisance.

Still, our youth need to be able to protect themselves. Properly trained teachers, as I have stated before in this space, should be able to step up if needed as well. It can all be done responsibly.

In the meantime, the stun-gun-pepper-spray bill is a start.

But more needs to be done; children are dying out there.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior editor for The Daily Courier and Prescott Newspapers, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.