Mon, Jan. 27

Senate votes to allow people with concealed weapon permits to bring guns into public buildings

PHOENIX -- Saying signs don't protect people from "homicidal maniacs,' the state Senate voted 18-12 Thursday to allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring them into unsecured public buildings.

SB 1257 would overrule existing laws that allow government agencies to declare their buildings to be weapons-free zones by posting signs at entrances and providing lockers so those who are armed can store their guns. Instead, they would have to buy and install metal detectors and have staffers available to check those coming in.

And if they did not, then those who have state-issued permits would be free to ignore the signs.

That means more than the 255,000 Arizonans who have the permits. It also would apply to anyone from a any other state which has an agreement to recognize permits from here if Arizona recognizes their CCW permits.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, chided colleagues for imposing a financial burden on local governments to hire the staff and buy the equipment.

But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said there is no burden at all. He said there is an alternative: Don't put up the detectors and let permit holders keep their weapons with them.

He said local governments are operating under the belief that the signs matter.

"There are very facilities now, other than court houses and correction facilities, that do the screening,' he said. "They apparently believe that a little sticker on the wall that says 'no guns' keeps them out.'

But Kavanagh said only "law-abiding' people obey the signs and leave their weapons outside or check them. This will simply allow those who have CCW permits to keep them.

And everyone else?

"People who do not have CCW permits who are homicidal maniacs, robbers, rapists, killers and assaulters will enter that building,' Kavanagh said. He said if there are no metal detectors to keep them out, "we need some CCW permit holders in there for protection.'

Kavanagh said it's not like his legislation opens the door to just anyone bringing guns into public buildings. The exemption from the no-guns requirement applies only to those with CCW permits.

"Consequently, the person will have to have gone through a complete fingerprint and background check, will have to have taken a course that deals with the legal aspects of using a firearm, safety issues, and would have to qualify and show that they can shoot, hit a target,' he said.

Farley sniffed at that making any difference.

He quoted from the Department of Public Safety web site which said that changes in law in 2010 removed many of the statutory requirements to get a CCW permit and instead provide alternate ways of getting one. The result, said Farley, is DPS is no longer checking to ensure that those who claim to offer CCW training are complying with state law.

The result, he said, is some states like Nevada won't honor Arizona CCW permits "because they don't think we train our people well enough.'

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said the problem is even deeper than that.

"We don't know if an individual who has a CCW permit has the technical skills to operate that instrument in a highly stressful situation,' he said, the kind of situations that will occur if there's an active shooter inside a public building.

"This isn't at a gun range where you're pointing at a still target,' Quezada said.

"This isn't out in a hunting situation where you're pointing at an animal that can't shoot back,' he continued. "This is going to be a highly intense situation where there are innocent people running around, children running around.'

But Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said foes of the measure are losing sight of the larger issue.

"When you read the constitution, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed,' he said. Smith said that trumps any debate on the relative merits of having CCW permit holders in public buildings.

Thursday's vote sends the measure to the House.

Lawmakers approved a measure in 2012 to allow anyone with a gun to bring it into a public building, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer.

Two years later they sent her a measure nearly identical to what was approved Thursday, with the permission narrowed to CCW holders. But Brewer rejected that one, too.

"I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, and I have signed into law numerous pieces of legislation to advance and protect gun rights,' Brewer said in her veto message. "However, I cannot support this measure in its proposed form.'

She voiced concerns about the cost to cities, counties and other government agencies that want to keep their buildings free of guns but may not be able to afford the necessary equipment and to provide guards at each door.

Current Gov. Doug Ducey has not had a chance to weigh in on the issue as no measure reached his desk last year.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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