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Updated Feb 26, 2014 - 7:45 pm

Push to arm Arizona teachers approved in hearing

PHOENIX -- Another attempt to arm classroom teachers in Arizona as a way to protect students in the event of a mass shooting is making its way through the state Legislature.

An Arizona House committee approved a bill that would allow teachers and staff to be armed if they complete 24 hours of training and keep the guns in lockers.

House Bill 2412, sponsored by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, would also require yearly re-training. The Committee on Appropriations approved the bill 7-3 on Wednesday.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who proposed the bill last year and again this session, said the bill would protect students in case a shooter entered a school. He said he was inspired to propose the bill by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012.

"I think we'd all feel very guilty if we could have provided protection and didn't," Horne said.

Horne said his bill was fairly conservative in that it requires training and designates only certified people to have access to guns on campus. The program is also voluntary, and would require participants to re-train every year.

But opponents say arming teachers could actually put students in danger.

"My bigger concern is really an unassailable truth that more weapons equal more violence. That's simple. It's a simple equation," said Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson.

Mach also said that allowing teachers to have guns would put schools at risk of having unaffordable liability insurance costs.

"We don't have that many resources so we should use our resources to make sure that schools are taken care of the on the whole," she said.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said several other states already allow teachers to be armed and that so far none have experienced any accidental shootings. He said arming teachers was important for student safety.

"You need a gun to stop a lunatic with a gun," Kavanagh said.

A similar proposal last year never received a hearing. House Bill 2412 will head to the House after a routine hearing.

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