Non-lethal means of self protection proposed for campuses

Arizona State Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert (Howard Fischer/Capital News Services)

Arizona State Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert (Howard Fischer/Capital News Services)

PHOENIX — Saying college and university students, faculty and visitors need more protection, a state House panel voted Monday to let them arm themselves—at least somewhat.

HB 2172 would override existing regulations which now keep all weapons off campus. Instead, people would be allowed to have “non-lethal’’ forms of self defense.

Exactly what that would include, however, is less than clear.

“It’s not a gun, it’s not a huge knife, it’s not a sword,’’ said Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, adding that anything that could kill under normal circumstances would remain banned on campuses.

What his legislation does allow, he said, is various chemical sprays, as stun guns that can shock a would-be assailant.

But Grantham rejected a suggestion that his legislation is too vague and that he needs to include a specific list of what would be legal if the measure became law.

He said that such specifics would close the door to other forms of non-lethal weapons that may be under development. And Grantham sniffed at the idea that people won’t know what they can and cannot have.

“It’s pretty clear what’s lethal and what’s non-lethal,’’ he said.

The 8-3 vote of the House Education Committee came over the objection of Kristen Boilini who lobbies on behalf of community colleges statewide. She said each of those colleges are run by locally elected boards.

“They listen to students, they listen to voters,’’ Boilini said. She asked lawmakers to leave that issue to local control.

The university system, however, is another issue.

The Board of Regents has yet to take an official position. About the only input provided was a letter by university presidents to Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, who chairs the committee. The letter proposed that such issues be resolved with consultation, rather than legislation.

Much of the testimony at the committee hearing focused on students’ vulnerability.

Mike Williams, who lobbies for Taser International, told lawmakers that 8 percent of female college students are victims of sexual assault. He said it’s not asking too much to allow students to be armed with one of the products his company makes.

He told lawmakers that Taser manufactures more than the stun guns used by police, the devices that deliver a 500-volt jolt over five seconds. Williams said the company also markets a device specifically for students, one that can disable an attacker for 30 seconds, allowing the would-be victim to get away and seek help.