Thu, June 27

Gould claims pricetag on lockers an effort to kill guns on campus bill

PHOENIX -- University officials are claiming it will cost them $13.3 million to install lockers outside all of the more than 700 publicly accessible buildings to keep faculty, students and others from bringing their weapons inside.

And that doesn't count the additional police officers who would be necessary to keep the lockers secure.

But a state senator who is pushing to let guns on campus claims the numbers are grossly inflated and designed to kill the legislation they have been unable to derail with public safety claims.

Central to the debate is SB 1474 which allow any adult who has a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring that gun into a university or community college building. Guns could be kept out -- but only if there were a secure locker at each affected building.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said the existing ban on guns on college and university campuses is largely meaningless.

He said those who seek to do harm ignore the law. That means they remain armed while more law-abiding citizens are unarmed -- and campus police are minutes away.

"The best thing you can do is match force with equal force,' Gould said.

The option of lockers offered by Gould mirrors existing laws which already apply to other public buildings like city offices: Communities that don't want residents carrying their guns inside must offer the option of lockers.

From the perspective of the regents, neither guns on campus nor erecting lockers is an acceptable option.

"There is no evidence to support claims that allowing guns on campus will result in a safer environment,' said Bob McLendon, who chairs the board. And LuAnn Leonard, the vice chair, said since the regents believe guns should remain illegal on campus, "this legislation will saddle the universities with additional costs that will cut into educational priorities.'

The estimate is based on the presumption that the lockers would have to be built into the exterior wall of each building. That includes construction cost of $12.4 million and $894,110 for the lockers themselves.

On top of that, the regents figure that they will need 2,880 "no guns' signs for the entrances of each of the buildings at a cost of $10 apiece.

Gould said the numbers make no sense. He said there is no reason that the schools cannot purchase and bolt down lockers that are much less expensive.

"It doesn't have to be Fort Knox,' he said.

But university officials said the cost is not so much the lockers themselves but the cost of installing and securing them to the outside of buildings, as the law says weapons are not allowed inside.

Gould acknowledged that the university opposition is taking its toll. He said the National Rifle Association, which supports his measure, just brought in someone from its national office to help lobby the measure and convince doubters to go along.

The cost estimates come as a new informal automated telephone survey of 843 Maricopa County adults found that only 13 percent who responded said they favor a law to allow students to carry guns on university and college campuses. Pollster Earl de Berge said 74 percent were opposed.

Gould's legislation actually is slightly different. Even if schools decide not to install lockers and allow guns, that right would be limited to those who have a concealed-carry permit. Only those who are at least 21 years old can obtain such a permit after undergoing some training.