Gabby Giffords gun safety group opposes Arizona plan

April 12, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) — A gun safety group founded by shooting victim and former Rep. Gabby Giffords came out in opposition Thursday to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s school safety plan, saying it makes it too difficult to take guns from people deemed an immediate threat.

The group also criticized the plan for not containing a provision requiring universal background checks for gun purchases.

The group known simply as “Giffords” said there are so many loopholes in the proposal on taking guns away from dangerous people that it is actually more cumbersome than current law.

For example, the group says it contains requirements for two separate court hearings and three judicial findings before a family member’s complaint can lead to a person’s gun being removed.

Giffords Executive Director Peter Ambler said in a statement that state leaders need to listen to people they represent rather than the gun lobby.

“This does not meet the needs of the state and it will not do enough to keep people safe,” Ambler said. “We hope that Democrats and Republicans will come together and demonstrate the courage to improve the governor’s proposal to include policies that will actually make a difference.”

Gabby Giffords was shot in the head in a 2010 attack.

The proposal was introduced Wednesday in the state Senate and is set for its first committee hearing Monday.

The so-called STOP orders that allow a court to seize guns has been one of the most contentious parts of the proposal the Republican governor rolled out nearly a month ago.

Gun right groups like the Arizona Citizens Defense League lobbied the governor’s office to weaken the proposal and also got him to drop some other parts of the plan.

Charles Heller, co-founder and media coordinator for the league, scoffed at Giffords’ opposition.

“Anything Giffords is against has got to be good,” he said.

Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth is working on the state House version of the proposal and said it properly protects the rights of gun owners by requiring multiple court hearings.

In addition to the STOP orders, the centerpieces of the wide-ranging school safety proposal is $11 million in new funding for school police officers and new funding for school psychologists that might spot a student heading toward a violent outburst like a school shooting.

The move was prompted by the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey, said his priority is passing legislation that better protects schools.

“This legislation does that,” he said in a statement. “It creates a tool to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who poses a threat to themselves or others, provides dollars for more school resource officers and mental health counseling, and establishes the Center for School Safety, which will serve as a central tip line for reporting school safety concerns and is strongly supported by this organization.”

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