Guns on Campus

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ASU Chief of Police John Pickens shares his views on a bill that would require Arizona’s public universities to allow anyone who has a concealed-carry permit, and who’s at least 21 years old, to carry a gun on campus.

Ted Simons: Police chiefs from across Arizona's public universities presented reports on campus safety to the Arizona board of regents today. Included in the presentation was a discussion about senate bill 1474, which requires the state's public colleges, community colleges, and universities to allow anyone age 21 or older with a concealed carry permit to carry a gun on campus. Earlier today I spoke with ASU police chief John Pickens about the bill. Chief, thanks for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

John Pickens: Thank you.

>> Before we get to the gun bill in your thoughts along those lineups, I know you did a presentation, the university police chief's presentation to the board of regents today. What did you tell them?

John Pickens: We conveyed the fact all three universities were safe campuses. And we talked about all the things that we have in place, educating the students, teaching the students, working with the students, partnerships, and the things we do to make the community safe.

Ted Simons: The difference between policing a community and policing a university campus or in your cases campuses. Talk to us about that.

John Pickens: I think the environment we're in, we're dealing with the younger generation. We're able to do more education with them, we have more time. As a matter of fact that's why we subscribe to community-based policing. We're dealing with similar crimes that the other agencies deal with, but on a less frequent basis. We are in a more densely populated area, and we get to do this one-on-one intervention, interaction with the students to assist them in a way -- in any way we can. We teach them, go on ride-alongs, we allow them to get assistance from us with their school work.

Ted Simons: With all of that in mind, let's get to the guns on campus bill, just the concept of allowing guns on university campuses. What are your thoughts?

John Pickens: My thoughts are, I've been doing this for quite some time, my thoughts are that I don't think it is the appropriate environment to have weapons on campus. One, if the intent of this legislation is to provide more individuals on campus to make it a safe campus, it's missing the mark. That's not going to happen. One of the reasons being is that the concealed weapons permit -- permit has been weakened, it's been watered down. You don't have to have any required training in terms of -- like we do ongoing training requirements were eight hours at one time. It's good for five years. Now you can be a veteran with a DD214, there's no provision that says how long you've been a veteran. You can do an online course or take a course that's supported by the Arizona game and fish similar in another state. You can also fire a pellet gun or .22 rifle. And there's no guarantee that you are qualified or trained or proficient with the weapon that you carry.

Ted Simons: So how does -- let's say the bill passes. Let's say the bill becomes law. How does that change policing on your end?

John Pickens: I think it's going to be a significant change. I think that one, you're going to have to do the gun lockers. We have to look at strategically adding staff. And from a proactive standpoint, I think we have to look at maybe offering some further education, gun safety, etc., but I think it's an unfunded mandate.

Ted Simons: The idea, those who are for this idea say safety would increase if guns were law -- allowed. It's an effective deterrent to violence on campus. How would you respond to that?

John Pickens: I don't buy into that argument. One, if that was the case, our statistics would not reflect that we have a safe campus. Number two, guns -- more guns does not equate to a safer campus. I think there are other things involved, such as target identification when it comes an active shooter, it will take an officer responding, a first responder a little more time to identify the correct target, if not more innocent people will get hurt. You've got the factor of unintentional discharge. We have a campus environment that is very complex, we also have day care centers, we have charter schools, we have school children of all ages doing tours on the campus.

Ted Simons: You also have in Utah they allow guns there. We also have in Colorado at least Colorado State University I believe. They allow guns on campuses there. And again, the pro side says we're not hearing any incidents there, why would we be worried here?

John Pickens: One, I think they're different environments. Two, I think we're larger, and I think that another reason would be that I'm not sure that what they apply there will apply here. We have a lot more students, we have a lot more faculty and staff, we have a lot more potential for things to go wrong. And I'm not sure what their certification or training requirements are for the concealed weapons permit.

Ted Simons: And that's a major concern for you, the fact of training. You mentioned it earlier, and it bears repeating, you don't think the training right now is up to snuff.

John Pickens: Absolutely. We train and we continuously train, we train, and we're not sure how we're going to respond. Once you get the adrenaline flowing, we miss our target not most of the time, but some of the time when we practice and we train. And so that is safety -- safety is the first thing on our mind.

Ted Simons: So last question, when the other side says, people push this, safety will increase on campus when more folks are armed and people have their rights to protect themselves on campus, your final say on this is?

John Pickens: No. I think that, you know, again, more weapons and all the things that I just mentioned is going to increase. I think you're putting officers at risk when they respond, I think it's going to have an impact on the suicide rate, homicide rate. Right now what we experience on campus, we may experience simple assaults, sometimes it might escalate, but now you got weapons. There's no cooling-off period. You got the weapon, you get into a debate, and quite frankly, people get upset when they don't get the grade they deserve. The campuses are institutions where it welcomes debate. And sometimes they get a little, you know, different, a little heated sometimes. And so when you got another recourse there, then you add those two together, and we think the potential is there for more serious injuries.

Ted Simons: All right. Chief, it's good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

John Pickens: Thank you.

John Pickens:ASU Chief of Police;

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