Push to arm Arizona teachers will be heard

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- An Arizona House committee has approved a bill allowing classroom teachers to have guns in schools.

House Bill 2412 would allow school districts to authorize an unlimited number of teachers and other staff to be armed. They must complete 24 hours of training from approved instructors and yearly re-training. The sessions include handling and storage of weapons, scenario-based training and familiarization with what police call "active shooter response."

The guns must be kept in lockers and used only in emergencies like school shootings.

The Committee on Appropriations approved the bill 7-3 on Wednesday.

"As long as it's someone who's trained and they're on campus like a police officer or they've gone through all the training like a police officer, I'm fine with it," Valley parent Jody Shannon said.

Supporters say the legislation would protect children and staff in the event of a mass shooting. Bill sponsor Rep. David Stevens of Sierra Vista introduced a similar proposal last year, but it never received a hearing.

In 2009, a teenager briefly held a classroom full of children hostage at Pioneer Elementary School in Glendale while armed with a loaded gun. An unarmed teacher helped calm the teen.

"She did an excellent job of diffusing the situation," said Ulises Ferragut, the attorney who represented the teen and a former high school teacher. "She didn't use a gun. I think she used her natural teaching skills to be able to do that. Certainly if you introduce a gun into that scenario, who knows what happens."

Shannon said the state should focus on what drives students to attempt acts of violence.

"I think, for the most part, they've got to take a strong stance with the bullying; they have to take care of our kids," she said