Here’s How Arizona Republicans Plan to Protect Our Schools

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar has joined the push to equip educators with concealed firearms.
U.S. Representative Paul Gosar has joined the push to equip educators with concealed firearms. Gage Skidmore

Arizona Republicans this week found a way to come together in the wake of an elementary school massacre on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead.

Here’s the plan: Arm teachers and administrators to the teeth and prepare them to fire back at an active shooter. More, not fewer, guns is their solution.

At first, U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, misidentified the assassin as “a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos.” The since-deleted tweet on May 25 was part of a debunked conspiracy theory that the shooting was a government-orchestrated false-flag operation.

He’s since backpedaled from the bizarre claim that failed to stick among his GOP colleagues, and joined the push to equip educators with concealed firearms. The sixth-term congressman was mum on the inflammatory tweet in comments to Phoenix New Times but flipped the narrative on his colleagues across the aisle.

“Reflexively, moments after the shooting, the left blamed Republicans including me for the actions of this murderer,” Gosar told New Times in a letter on Sunday. “This absurd rhetoric is completely abhorrent, yet all too common from leftists quick to politicize tragedies.”

In House chambers, Gosar is surrounded at all times by an armed security detail. There are guarded points of entry. Armed security personnel and metal detectors safeguard the airports where he and his compatriots fly frequently between Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Washington Dulles International airports.

The same should be true in schools, he and his fellow Republicans agree.

“If members of Congress and everyday travelers have this level of security, why can't we secure our schools with single entry points and security?” he asked. “Don't tell me we don't have the money.”

Over his objections, Gosar noted, Congress recently voted to send Ukraine $62 billion in humanitarian aid, money he said would be put to better use fighting the mental health crisis that often underlies school shootings. Gosar wrote that he believes the United States wasted trillions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq by building schools and security there during wartime.

Calls for mental health reform have become a common theme for conservatives looking to curb school shootings while preserving the freedom to own firearms.

“Not surprising, Joe Biden and most Democrats used this tragedy to push for gun control suggesting that if it wasn't for a gun, this murderer would be a well-adjusted individual,” Gosar said. “Schools remain the most unprotected institutions in America, yet Democrats fail to remember they pushed legislation to defund school police protection and fought to remove armed police from schools.”

The Mohave County Republican questioned the effectiveness of police responding to the Texas massacre.

Despite a $23 million endowment to clad every Uvalde Police officer with the highest-rated bulletproof armor on the market in 2018, cops delayed storming the school by nearly an hour, in a potentially fatal departure from active-shooter protocols that existed since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.

Distraught parents in Texas were even detained and pepper-sprayed by mothballed police as their children were gunned down mere yards away, sparking a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the law enforcement's actions in Uvalde.

“Something went wrong in Texas,” said Gosar, a devout champion of law enforcement, calling police response in Uvalde “disturbing.”

Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, a Republican from Flagstaff, broke a three-day silence on Friday to echo other Arizona GOP leaders.

In January, Rogers sponsored legislation that required public colleges and universities in the state to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun.

Now, it’s time to take similar measures on public school campuses, she believes.

“We must harden our schools with school resource officers and allow trained teachers and administrators to conceal carry,” Rogers tweeted on May 27. “Tragedies are preventable. More good guys with guns.”

In a May 27 interview with Fox News, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also a Republican, indicated that he supports arming school resource officers to deter mass shootings.

He first jabbed at “video games and the media” as being culpable for school shootings before suggesting that further proliferation of firearms, the opposite action sought by Democrats, was the only hope of preventing a similar tragedy in Arizona.

Brnovich likened Zionist communities near Gaza amid the raging Israeli-Palestinian conflict to American public schools, saying "every single one of the members of that community is armed" and asking, "What are we doing to arm our most precious resource, our children?"

The policy solution he offered mirrored that of his GOP cohorts, begging the Arizona Legislature to codify plans "making sure that we have the proper security in those classrooms, including police officers."

Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing, as Gosar told New Times: “The tragic shooting of precious, innocent life in Texas is beyond heartbreaking.”

The party-line rift comes from differing opinions on why school shootings occur and how to stop them. Republicans want more guns in schools, and Democrats want gun control for all Americans.

U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, a first-term Democrat from Tucson, said, “It’s fucking nuts to do nothing about this,” implying comprehensive gun control, according to Capitol Hill pool reports.

At an impasse, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on May 25 called on the Republican minority to work with Democrats to pass bipartisan gun control legislation.

Absent bilateral cooperation, it’s possible that nothing will be done before the next mass school shooting — a fear shared by lawmakers across the political spectrum. And it's not looking likely that they'll reach a compromise given the animosity toward gun control from Republicans.

“The leftists want your guns and to take away your right to self-defense,” Gosar said. “They use tragedies like this to push that unconstitutional notion all the while claiming it's for the children. Like the Democrat-run cities, they want the people defenseless at the mercy of criminals and big government.”

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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss