Sat, July 20

Law to allow guns in public places moves another step forward

PHOENIX -- Saying they'll work out concerns over property rights later, a House panel voted Thursday to let people bring their guns into public establishments.

Current law permits public agencies to declare their buildings as gun-free zones by putting a sticker on the door and agreeing to check the weapons of those entering. Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, the sponsor of SB 1201, called that meaningless.

"Stickers don't really protect anybody,' he said, noting there are "no guns' stickers on the front of the House and Senate buildings. "But you and I both know that that does not really keep a criminal or a psychotic from walking in to this meeting and shooting each and every one of us dead.'

His legislation would let public agencies keep their buildings free of guns only if there are metal detectors at each entrance with security guards. That way, Gould said, visitors could feel safe without a weapon to defend themselves.

The committee also voted to declare the Colt single action Army revolver the official state firearm. Gould, sponsor of that measure, too, said the gun played a key role in the settling of Arizona.

But Rep. Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, said SB 1610 ignores the people who often were on the wrong end of these guns.

"The gun symbolizes the extinction, the extermination of those Indians who were here,' said Hale, a member of the Navajo Nation.

"I recognize some of the atrocities that went on,' responded Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. He said this does not celebrate those events but simply recognizes the part that particular weapon played in the state's history, for good or bad.

The concept of allowing guns in public buildings has broad support among legislative Republicans. But several said Thursday they worried about the breadth of the provision.

As crafted, the legislation applies to all "public establishments.' That includes not only buildings owned by the state, counties and cities but also any space these governments lease or control.

But not all public agencies are in publicly owned buildings. For example, the state Fingerprint Board and the Department of Veteran Services both lease space in a private building in midtown Phoenix.

Marc Osborn, lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the legislation could infringe on the right of those building owners to keep guns out.

Gould said he will work with business groups to come up with some compromise.

The other question involves stadiums.

Weapons would be allowed at "public events.' And that is defined not only as events conducted by a public agency but those run by private groups with a license or permit from a public entity.

Representatives of several sports teams that play in stadiums and fields which actually are owned by local governments said they did not want their fans to be armed.

Dave Kopp of the Arizona Citizens Defense League said there are negotiations to remove all the references to public events from the legislation.

The measure does not affect schools. But the committee, in a separate vote on SB 1467, approved a Senate-passed measure which would allow people to carry weapons on public rights-of-way in and around university and community college campuses.

That vote came over the objections of Anthony Daykin, police chief of the University of Arizona. He said while the bill no longer would permit guns in campus building it is still a bad idea to let individuals carry weapons through campuses.