ABOR, universities stand united against guns on campus

The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously passed a resolution against allowing guns on university campuses during the regularly scheduled meeting this week in Tempe.

“If you were to ask me how many firearms I own, I would answer ‘not enough,’” said Regent Ernest Calderón, an NAU graduate and former ABOR president. “But I cannot in any logical way understand why allowing guns on campus makes sense.”

The board heard from university faculty, staff, students and police chiefs who joined the meeting to speak against guns on campus.

The three university police chiefs presented on campus safety in relation to the latest proposed state legislation approved last week by the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee. State Bill 1474 would allow anyone age 21 and older with a concealed-carry permit to bring a gun onto all state community college or university campuses. The bill must go to the full Legislature for approval before being sent to Gov. Jan Brewer for a final decision.

NAU Police Chief G.T. Fowler expressed his concern about adding weapons to a university environment that includes young people in stressful situations coupled with alcohol and drug use. He also stated that many crimes that occur on university campuses are those of opportunity and adding guns to the mix could result in dangerous situations.

“We don’t think there is a need to arm everyone to increase safety on campus,” he said.

Fowler said NAUPD has 17 sworn officers who undergo specialized training to properly respond to unpredictable situations, and the department works closely with area law enforcement agencies through continuous hazard preparation exercises to ensure a unified response to incidents. He said university police departments undergo regular evaluation and reaccreditation by external agencies including the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Additionally, each of the universities continues to enhance communication systems to swiftly notify faculty, staff and students of emergency situations through text message alerts, email, campus public address systems and social media outlets.

The university police chiefs released a joint statement to the Arizona Republic last week.

NAU President John Haeger, who also released a statement regarding guns on campus in the Arizona Daily Sun, said the legislation threatens to disrupt the educational mission and harms recruitment opportunities for Arizona universities.

“The parents of undergraduate students all ask the same question—is this a safe campus? And we want to always be able to respond in the affirmative,” Haeger said.

Allen Reich, NAU Faculty Senate President, and faculty representatives from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona spoke at the meeting and expressed their stance against allowing guns on campus.

The regents also approved Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart as the 21st UA president. Her term will begin July 1. She is the first woman to serve as UA president.

“On behalf of the Regents, I welcome Dr. Hart to the University of Arizona and the Arizona university system,” said Bob McLendon, board chair. “We have the utmost confidence that she will lead the University of Arizona to new heights.”

The regents thanked interim UA President Gene Sander for his service during the last year as a nationwide search was conducted.