Undeterred by last year’s defeat, Gov. Doug Ducey said last week he will make another run at getting lawmakers to approve his school safety plan – including a controversial provision to allow judges to take weapons away from people considered dangerous and placing armed officers on every campus.
Speaking Monday at the Capitol and then again on Wednesday in Gilbert at a breakfast sponsored by the East Valley Chambers of Commerce and the East Valley Partnership, Ducey touted his administration’s Safe Arizona Schools Plan. “More cops, more counselors, improved background checks” were only some of the aspects Ducey listed.
The governor also stated he wished to protect Second Amendment rights “while keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who are a lethal threat.”
But what he wants in the plan – and the universal background checks he refuses to consider – could again doom the proposal he said would help cut down on mass shootings to failure.
In his fifth State of the State address, Ducey repeated his plea to lawmakers to adopt a drought contingency plan ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline set by the Bureau of Reclamation, at which point federal officials will decide how to allocate the dwindling water supply out of Lake Mead.
The governor also made a pitch for more career and technical education, saying that those classes that used to be called “shop’’ are training people for jobs the state needs to fill.
He also said he wants to bolster the state’s “rainy-day’’ savings account from the current $450 million to $1 billion, a figure that would be about 10 percent of a normal state budget, to be prepared for the next financial downturn.
And he promised to make good on last year’s plan to hike teacher pay an average of another 10 percent by 2020 on top of the current 10 percent – though there was no mention of pay hikes for counselors, bus drivers, custodians and others not included in the package.
What is most likely to create the most friction in the State Legislature for the governor is his school safety plan.
The governor told lawmakers his starting point is the plan he offered last year, one he said was based on a study of the five deadliest school shootings of the past two decades. More to the point, he wanted to know what could be done to have prevented them in the first place.
Some elements proved largely noncontroversial, like more police on school campuses and more school counselors.
But one common element was the belief that some of the incidents might never have happened given that there were people who had observed the soon-to-become shooters and raised questions about their safety.
That led to the STOP plan, Severe Threat Order of Protection. It would set up a procedure to allow not just police but family members and others to seek a court order to have law enforcement take an individual’s weapon while he or she is locked up for up to 21 days for a mental evaluation.
Senate Republicans approved the proposal last year, but only after removing provisions to allow family members, guidance counselors and school administrators to refer to courts people they considered a danger to themselves or others.
Gilbert Republican Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, then the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to even give the measure a hearing.
Farnsworth, now a state senator, said he remains skeptical that Ducey can craft a plan that protects the constitutional rights of gun owners.
He said, though, that’s only part of the problem. The rest, said Farnsworth, is locking people up for mental evaluations based on someone’s complaint.
“I think the intent’s good,’’ Farnsworth said. “I think we have to find a way to do it without violating the Constitution.’’
Democrats, in general, have had no problem with STOP orders. But they remain adamant that any plan must have something else that Ducey has so far been unwilling to provide.
“We want universal background checks,’’ said House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez after the governor’s speech. “We know it saves lives.’’
Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to conduct background checks when a weapon is sold to ensure that the buyer is legally entitled to possess a gun. But those rules do not apply in person-to-person sales, including sales by individuals at gun shows.
There was no mention of universal background checks during Ducey’s speech despite that being a touchstone of what Gabrielle Giffords’ group wants. And even after the speech, the governor sidestepped questions about closing what some have called the “gun-show loophole.’’
“We’re going to improve these background checks,’’ Ducey said.
That’s what he proposed last year, with law enforcement agencies required to put more information into the database checked by gun dealers. But none of that extends the requirement to check to individual sellers.
So what’s different?
One is more resources: Ducey said there will be funds to put a police officer in every school that wants one.
“We know when a police officer is around, it makes things safer,’’ he said.
Not good enough, said Fernandez.
“We are committed to universal background checks,’’ she said. And their votes will be needed if Republicans balk.