PHOENIX -- Saying it will make people safer, state senators voted Friday to let people with concealed weapons permits carry them onto college and university campuses where they are now forbidden.
The 15-6 vote on the provision in HB 2439 came after backers said they believe that having people who are licensed by the state to have weapons should cut down on the number of massacres that occur on campuses. And Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, said that has happened in Arizona.
He did not refer by name to the 2002 incident at the University of Arizona where three instructors at the College of Nursing were slain by student Robert S. Flores Jr. who then turned the gun on himself.
But Huppenthal said the evidence shows that it makes sense, from a safety standpoint, to let people carry guns.
"The states that have concealed carry (laws) have statistically significant smaller mass shootings,' he said.
Huppenthal said he would not support guns on public school campuses, saying Arizona has no history of massacres on those campuses.
"The situation is different in our universities,' he said.
"We've had a mass shooting in our universities,' Huppenthal continued. "We sort of have a track record of not being safe in our universities.'
And he said that, based on the research, allowing those who have concealed weapons permits to bring them onto campuses would mean "our universities would be safer.'
University of Arizona lobbyist Greg Fahey said his school opposes allowing anyone to have guns on campus. And Fahey said he's not convinced that rule should be waived for those with permits to carry concealed weapons even though they have undergone background checks, training in state laws and been shown to be proficient in the use of the gun.
"Our chief of police and the police of all three universities have consistently said that their experience is that having people with guns is just more of an invitation to have accidents, to have problems,' Fahey said. "And they don't want anyone who's not a sworn officer being armed on campus.'
But Huppenthal said he's not convinced that students and faculty are safer with gun-free campuses.
The senator said his requests for information from universities shows "they haven't done any careful analysis' of the crimes.
And what they have done, he said, only involves those crimes on campus.
"But the truth is, there's a large number of rapes of coeds as they leave campus and they go to their home,' Huppenthal said.
He said these women are forced to leave any guns at home - and leave themselves vulnerable while walking to class - because current rules bar them from having the weapons on campus.
"Allowing concealed carry on campus will make people safer,' he said.
Huppenthal said he can't say exactly why mass murders are less likely to occur in places where people can carry concealed weapons.
"Maybe insane people, they perceive risk, too,' he said, and are less likely to start a shooting spree if they think others may be armed.
But Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, had his own theory. He told colleagues of a shooting several months ago on the campus of university in Israel.
"This radical Islamist had decided they were going to come on this university and start shooting Jews,' Harper related.
"Well, after a couple of shots, this person was put down,' he continued. "That's because they allow firearms on universities in Israel.'
The bill, which includes provisions to allow permit holders to carry in other public places and events, awaits a final Senate vote.
In separate action Friday, the House voted to restrict the ability of businesses to ban employees from bringing guns into company parking lots.
The original legislation would have barred any limits as long as the worker left the weapon locked out of sight in the vehicle.
But that brought protests from business owners who said it interfered with their property rights.
As finally approved, SB 1168 allows gun bans to remain, but only if the parking lot or garage is fenced, has limited access and the company provides "temporary and secure' storage for the guns of the workers.
Companies also could keep guns out of their parking lots if they provide "alternate parking' without cost adjacent to the regular lot.
The measure needs final Senate approval before going to the governor.
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