Thu, June 27

Gould puts guns-on-campus bill back in holster

PHOENIX -- There won't be any faculty or students carrying guns on campus legally, at least not this year.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said Tuesday he has pulled the plug on efforts to allow those with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon to also bring them with them into classrooms. Gould said he could not round up the necessary votes.

Gould also said a provision to let the schools keep the weapons out of the buildings by providing lockers failed to sway foes.

The move is a victory for the university and community colleges who sent their police chiefs to the Capitol to peel off support for what had been a popular issue.

In fact, Gould had pushed a similar measure through the House and Senate last year, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer who said the legislation as crafted would be too hard to enforce. This new version, SB 1474, was designed to specifically address her concerns.

"In reality, I think it's an election year question,' he said.

"There were some legislators that were feeling weak-kneed about it,' Gould continued. "The universities were putting a full-court press on them because they knew if I could get the bill up to the governor, the governor would probably sign it.'

Complicating matters, Gould said, is that lawmakers are all looking at running in newly revised legislative districts. He said many of those new districts are more politically competitive than they were in the past, meaning it would be easier for challengers to paint the incumbents as "radicals.'

Gould contends the existing ban on guns on campuses is largely meaningless, saying those who are bent on breaking the law -- and maybe even harming someone -- are undeterred by the penalties for illegally carrying a firearm.

The result, he said, is law-abiding faculty and students who are unarmed and unable to protect themselves. And Gould said campus police are usually too far away to make an immediate difference.

Gould offered an option to keep the classrooms gun-free as long as there were lockers outside each building. That mirrors existing laws which already apply to other public buildings like city offices.

That proved no more acceptable with the Board of Regents estimating it would cost $894,110 to buy the lockers -- and $12.4 million to install them in the side of each building.

Gould called that a smokescreen.

"You don't have to remodel the front of a building to put a gun locker up,' he said, pegging the cost of a gun locker at $650 apiece.

"They can come up with 1,000 reasons of why they oppose it,' Gould said.

"The reason they oppose it is that liberals run the university system,' he continued. "Liberals don't like guns. They don't want guns on their playground.'

Anyway, Gould said, if money were the only issue, he would have pushed for an appropriation to pay for the lockers and the installation.

The death of SB 1474 still leaves one other major measure on firearms alive.

Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, is proposing to tighten up that existing law which makes public buildings weapons-free zone if lockers are provided. If HB 2729 is approved, a public agency also would be required to have armed security guards using X-ray machines or metal detectors.

Gowan said without such screening, there is no way law-abiding citizens can be sure that others in the building are unarmed.

HB 2729 was approved by the House earlier this month on a 37-21 margin. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 for its approval but it has yet to clear the Senate Rules Committee.