Feb 15, 2023 - Politics

Phoenix area's Agua Fria school district installs new gun detectors

Two pairs of column-shaped electrical devices at the front gate of a baseball park.

Opengate weapon detection systems at the entrance of Goodyear Ballpark. Photo: Courtesy of CEIA

The Agua Fria Union High School District installed an advanced weapons detector in one of its schools that will sound the alarm for firearms, but not other metallic objects.

  • District spokesperson Megan Griego says she believes Agua Fria is the first district in Arizona to have the devices. CEIA, the Italian manufacturer of the detection system, says it hasn't sold the devices to any other K-12 districts in Arizona.

Driving the news: The district installed its first Opengate weapons detection systems at all entrances to Verrado High School in Buckeye last Wednesday.

  • It will place the devices in Canyon View High School next, and in the district's other three high schools by the end of the academic year, Griego tells Axios Phoenix.
  • The district purchased 21 weapons detectors for its five high schools at a cost of about a half-million dollars, Griego said.

Why it matters: Gun violence in schools is a constant concern, especially in the wake of last year's devastating shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

  • Agua Fria has had seven known incidents since July 2021 in which a student brought a firearm to campus.
  • Last year, Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee responded to online threats with bag searches and handheld metal detectors.

How it works: Unlike traditional metal detectors — like those at airports, sporting events, etc. — Opengate detects only heavier items, such as firearms.

  • That means students don't have to empty pockets or backpacks as they walk through.
  • The weapons detectors can screen up to 3,600 people per hour compared with 500-700 for traditional machines.
  • Opengate systems cost about $17,200 apiece, compared with roughly $4,200 for one of CEIA's most popular metal detectors.

What she's saying: "It is an unfortunate reality that we live in. ... Recent events are a stark reminder that we must do everything we can to ensure that our campuses are safe," Griego says of the district governing board's decision to purchase the devices.

Context: CEIA introduced Opengate in 2021 in response to feedback from the NFL and other customers, says Tom McDermott, national sales manager for K-12 school safety.

Zoom out: CEIA provided over 200 detectors to districts in other states over the past year.

Several other companies offer weapons detection systems, Stadium Tech Report wrote last year.

  • Out-of-state districts have bought or considered systems from companies like Evolv.
  • It's unclear whether any districts in Arizona have purchased systems from companies other than CEIA.
  • Opengate systems have already been used in Arizona by the Super Bowl, the WM Phoenix Open, ASU, Grand Canyon University and the Diamondbacks, McDermott said.

What to watch: McDermott says CEIA has received inquiries from other districts about the Opengate system.

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