HB 2031 House Public Safety Committee | Photo by Harrison Mantas

Arizona lawmakers temporarily shelved House Bill 2031 on Wednesday, which would allow schools to arm teachers and staff. Advocates against the measure are preparing for the next hearing.

An Arizona House Panel shelved a bill that would have allowed schools to arm teachers and staff. 

Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Sun City, told a packed hearing room he believed the bill, HB 2031, was “not ready for prime time.” He then urged bill sponsor Representative John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, to “meet with stakeholders” and come back to the committee with revisions.

Before gaveling out of the session, Payne told the audience, “Your emails have been read and heard, and I appreciate yah.” Members of Moms Demand Action, an advocacy group that supports gun restrictions, filled the room.

Although temporarily shelved, the debate over the measure is far from over.

Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr., D-Tucson, told a gathered crowd outside the legislature that the HB 2031 bill has until February 21st to make it to the full House Floor.

“That means we have a committee meeting every Wednesday from now until the 21st to make sure it doesn’t get on the agenda,” Hernandez said. He added that Wednesday’s House Hearing was the first time that those in the public opposed to the bill outnumbered those in support of it.

“I find that comical,” Fillmore said in a phone interview Thursday. He explained it was his decision to pull the bill after receiving a technical question from a fellow member he could not answer.

“I had sufficient ‘yes’ votes to pass it out of committee,” Fillmore said. He added that he thinks the bill will come back “relatively soon.”

Overall, HB 2031 would enable school districts to deputize their staffs. The bill’s language would allow these new marshals to “make arrests and exercise all authority granted to peace officers under the laws of this state.” It also stipulates that school policies may curtail those powers.

Fillmore said participation by staff is voluntary, and firearms will only be used in extreme situations like when there’s an active shooter.

However, Jennifer Zechlin, a coordinator for Moms Demand Action, said the bill puts an unnecessary burden on teachers.

“We can’t expect teachers and staff to be law enforcement officers,” she said, adding that trained law enforcement officers have problems with accuracy in gun fights.

“We can’t expect teachers to do the same,” Zechlin said.

Zechlin’s argument stems from the claim that trained police hit their target “less than 30% of the time” by advocates fighting against the nationwide effort to deputize school staff. This data stems from a 2008 Rand study that looked at officer involved shootings in the New York Police Department from 1998-2006 and determined that NYPD Officers had an 18% accuracy rate in gun fights. However, Politifact concluded the claim to be half true, which is explained here.

For now, it’s unclear when HB 2031 will be back before a House committee, but Hernandez told the crowd it will need to pass back through the Public Safety and Education communities before getting a vote by the full House.

Zechlin said, “We will be here. We will be contacting our legislators and asking them to please pass common sense gun laws – not ones that will make our children unsafe.” 

Editor’s Note: Comments made by Rep. John Fillmore were added to this story for clarity on the decision to pull the bill.