Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Talks Guns, School Safety, Trade And Immigration
Since the shootings in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month, there’s been increased attention on proposed policy changes to try to curb gun violence.
In Arizona, the state House Democratic leader has called for a special session to debate gun control measures, although that idea is not universally supported.
The Show's Mark Brodie sat down with Gov. Doug Ducey Monday to talk about gun rights and gun control, trade and the economy, immigration and more. Here's their expanded conversation.
MARK BRODIE: Governor, let me start with the recent shootings in Dayton and El Paso, has brought a lot of gun control gun rights conversations back into the forefront. It's a conversation that you have been involved with at the state level in the past. I'm wondering as we sit here in 2019, what do you think that the state should be doing and maybe some of the changes in gun laws the state should be making right now in light of what's been going on over the last number of weeks and months and years?
DOUG DUCEY: Well, let me say that my heart goes out to the people in El Paso and in Dayton. I was actually in Ohio when the Dayton shooting happened, and I think thoughts and prayers are what we should extend, and I think we should also take action. I think there are things that we can do, there are things that we've done in our administration to prevent and avoid this type of thing from happening in Arizona. Of course, Arizona's not perfect. We have been able to avoid a mass school shooting, but we have had public incidents. The one in 2011 with Gabby Giffords is still fresh in so many of our minds. So we've done a number of things from getting resources to bring counselors into the schools, to getting more cops on campus, to improve our background checks. In Arizona, there's another idea called the STOP order — the Severe Threat Order of Protection — that we have put forward to the Legislature. This would allow, when there's a dangerous individual that's been identified by law enforcement or an academic leader, while respecting Second Amendment rights and due process, where action could be taken. I mean, we studied the last five largest mass school shootings and came up with the Safe Arizona Schools Plan. We think it's a blueprint and a path forward. We've been able to complete some of it, but I think there's more work that needs to be done.
BRODIE: Let me ask you about the STOP orders in particular because there's been a lot of talk about these sort of "red flag" laws that people have talked about, and that got a lot of pushback both in the Legislature and in the sort of pro-Second Amendment community in Arizona, and it continues to. We still get emails saying that "Gov. Ducey wants to take our guns away," so how do you try to overcome that and get something like that through?
DUCEY: Well, we're not taking any law-abiding citizen's guns away, and I want you to know, I mean I'm very pro-Second Amendment. I'm going to advocate on behalf of the Second Amendment. This is about protecting law-abiding citizens. And I think if we have an individual in Arizona who's basically demonstrating that this is how they want to behave and the actions that they want to take, I want law enforcement to have a tool in their back pocket, and that's what the STOP order would be. But it would protect anyone, any law-abiding citizen and their Second Amendment rights. This is a tool for law enforcement. It also is not a silver lining, in terms of it won't solve all these problems. I think sometimes it's good we're talking about this. The shame of it is that we're talking about it because there were just two shootings, and then it seems to fade. But there's no individual law, there's no policy rule or regulation that will fix all this. There's quite a cultural crisis of the heart and soul around this. But these are tools in these situations that leaders can use while protecting the Second Amendment.
BRODIE: You mentioned school counselors, and the state budget included more money for counselors to get into schools. As you know, Arizona has one of if not the lowest student-to-counselor ratios in the country. Do you see that as a first step? Do you think that there needs to be more money set aside to hire more counselors for schools?
DUCEY: I do. I do. I think we need more money for counselors, I think we need more money for cops on campus. Last year, we were able to get $10 million forward this past year, $20 million dollars forward. We have some flexibility there depending on the superintendent and the district, can make the determination whether they need a police officer on campus — those are called school resource officers — or additional counselors, or both. But more money is needed, and counselors can go a long way in terms of helping this. The situation that we see on the nightly news in terms of school shootings, the other side of this is we have a lot of kids that are never going to hurt somebody else, but they're hurting themselves. They're taking their own lives. They're depressed or socially or emotionally disconnected. And that really came through loud and clear when I met with teachers and principals and superintendents and students, so counselors can help. Of course families can help. And then there's some peer-to-peer stuff that's also happening inside our schools that can be a benefit to the young people.
BRODIE: Now I wanted to ask you about sort of the mental health component of this because it seems that that has to be talked about, but I wonder if it's maybe — I don't know they talked about too much — but almost sort of seen as an excuse or reason, "Oh this there weren't any other problems the person just had a mental illness who went off and committed this horrible act." I wonder if there's sort of a balance between dealing with the legitimate mental health problems that there are — both in schools and outside of schools — but not maybe using that as a way to not deal with some of the other issues.
DUCEY: No, I think that's the appropriate word, is balance. Mental health is is a component of this, but we also have other issues — like I said, in terms of of depression and disconnection in our youth — and it's a combination of many of these factors. Sometimes they result in a mass tragedy that makes the news. Sometimes they result in a personal family tragedy that we hear all too often in suicide, depression and disengagement from society and school.
BRODIE: Let me ask you about the Arizona economy. You like to talk about the economy a lot. Markets both here and across the country have not been loving the uncertainty with the trade war with China that we're currently dealing with and what may or may not happen next. I'm wondering, on your level of things that you are concerned about in your job, where does federal trade policy and its effect on Arizona fall?
DUCEY: Well first, I want to say the economy is booming right now. In Arizona, we have more jobs available than we have people to fill them. Maricopa County is the fastest growing county in the nation three years running. This is not on a small base. When you take the greater Phoenix area, it's 4.8 million people, that's larger than 26 other American states, and we're the fastest growing. So this is a good problem to have. It requires investment in infrastructure. But when there's uncertainty, it does affect the markets. It's amazing sometimes, Mark, when the markets are raging and going forward. People say, "Oh well the markets really don't affect people because people don't all own stocks," and then when the markets are volatile they say, "Well, this is a prediction of disaster soon to come." What I really look for is labor participation, people being able to not only find a job but climb the economic ladder. Are their paychecks growing? All those things are positive in Arizona. I would like to see some certainty on what's happening on international trade. I know that the president is drawing a hard line with China. It's past due that someone drew a hard line with China. I think those negotiations are ongoing. What probably can affect Arizona the most, in the short term, is the USMCA.
BRODIE: One of the industries that's been talking a lot about this — they've spoken with us on The Show, I'm sure they've spoken with you as well — is the agricultural industry, especially concerned about China not buying goods and produce grown here in the state. I'm wondering if there's anything on a state level that can be done to try to alleviate those concerns on the part of farmers.
DUCEY: Well, we can always open up other markets we're not going to open up another market that's the equivalent to China. You've probably heard about the trade with Mexico, some of the issues around tomatoes. You know, what we want to do is make certain that that our agricultural community and our hardworking farmers have an export market when necessary, of course feeding Arizonans and Americans comes first in terms of the trade policy. But the USMCA will be a benefit to Arizona. And then, on the China issue, so many of this sticking points are around technology, international property, etc. But it does bleed over to the soybean markets and other markets that have been years in development. So we have to be hopeful that the president and the trade ambassadors will have proper care. Of course, not only do we want to be able to trade with China, they want to be able to trade with us.
BRODIE: One of the other issues that can affect the economy, of course, is immigration, and you've talked a lot about some of the federal policies. And I'm interested, when the president talked about the so-called public charge rule and changing in terms of who can get a green card to come in, you talked about the need for a balance in terms of who is allowed to come in. If that doesn't happen, specifically in Arizona, how would that affect the economy?
DUCEY: Well, we have needs a across the spectrum in terms of our state. All of our citizens can find a job right now, and then we have jobs still available. So in settings like this, in the past it has been a solution of legal immigration that has come to the fore. Now, the discussion has been about what kind of immigration. Is it it that that the top tier, the master's student and the Ph.D. who can code in and do the engineering jobs, or what about the entry-level jobs? Hospitality, service workers, restaurants, hotels, etc. What I want to see is a balance in this policy. No one wants to see someone only be attracted to come to this country for public assistance. And I think some of this was confused in the national debate around this. Someone doesn't have access to that public assistance anyway when they come. So we want to see people be able to come, climb the economic ladder. Hopefully they're attracted to the country because they they love the opportunity and the freedom that it provides, and then of course we want to see people be successful.
BRODIE: Do you think states should in some way be able to determine who gets access to come work in their state based on particular needs that state has?
DUCEY: I would love to see some up some flexibility at the state level to address what the need is. I do think we need a consistent, national legal immigration policy, and I also think we need attention at the borders. I mean, we talk a lot about immigration. We're not talking much about the border and the security and humanitarian crisis that's happened there. And the trend is going in the right direction. I mean we've gone from hundreds of thousands of people on a monthly basis but we're at tens of thousands of people. I think 70,000 people last month. But again, it's not getting the attention. It's something that our federal government needs to do, because even if we solve it in Arizona — and we've done many positive things like the border strike force and working peer-to-peer to focus on the bad guys, the drug cartels and the human traffickers — they can just as easily come in New Mexico, California or Texas. So we need some consistent, positive federal policy. And then it would be nice if states in a setting — our needs are going to be different than New Mexico's right now, and quite frankly, different than California or Texas as well.
BRODIE: I'm curious what you make of the State Board of Regents decision last week to expand the discounted tuition rate they have to undocumented Arizona high school graduates.
DUCEY: Well listen, I think somebody that graduates from an Arizona high school is an Arizona kid, and I want to see them have Arizona opportunities in front of them. So I congratulate the regents for a first step around this. But I do believe that if you are here and graduate from an Arizona high school, you should have the same opportunities that anyone else that graduates from Arizona high schools has.
BRODIE: Are you confident that is legally OK given the initiative that Arizona voters passed [in 2006]?
DUCEY: We live in a litigious society, and I don't know who is going to bring suit, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if someone brought suit. I think the regents did their best to design this, so of course that they follow the law. I think we need to continue to follow the law, but we also want to make certain that Arizona high school graduates don't have to leave our state to pursue opportunity.
BRODIE: Arizona and Nevada we now know will be taking less water from the Colorado River based on the Drought Contingency Plan, which you in the Legislature approved earlier this year. I'm wondering if, given that, does that speak to the need for water conservation efforts, increasing water conservation efforts here?
DUCEY: Well this is, the Drought Contingency Plan is what you're talking about. We talk about education every year in the state. We talked about water about once every 40 years. We do sometimes take it for granted. I mean, look at this. We've got the fastest growing county and in the nation in the middle of a desert. So this is something we're very good at in Arizona. We want to continue to talk about water conservation, but we also want to talk about augmentation and innovation. The DCP and the subsequent committee and plans that'll follow that are going to address all three.
BRODIE: All right. That's Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Gov. Ducey, thank you.
DUCEY: Thank you.