Arizona lawmakers are continuing their fight to allow students and faculty to carry guns on college campuses across the state. One state legislator has plans to introduce a new gun law in the opening session on January 9, ensuring the bill would not get lost in the rest of the business of the state as the year progresses. Despite the veto of a similar bill by Governor Jan Brewer last year, those in support of allowing guns on campuses
feel confident that this year’s bill will get the governor’s blessings.
Why Guns on Campus?
The issue of allowing guns on university and community college campuses has been a hot button topic since the shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007 left 33 dead, including students, faculty members and the shooter. According to AZ Central
, Arizona lawmakers began introducing gun bills that following year, stating trained gun owners would provide another layer of protection for colleges throughout the state. The recent Arizona shootings in 2011
by former Pima Community College
student Jared Loughner, who wounded and killed dozens of people at a shopping mall, including US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, have further fueled the fire of these gun movements.
Currently, Arizona law allows individual schools to make the decision of whether to allow guns on their campuses, although none of the colleges in the state allow weapons on campus at this time.
“A gun free zone really becomes self-defense free zones,” Arizona State Senator Ron Gould told My FOX Phoenix
. “Law abiding citizens are the only ones who follow the gun ban. Criminals or people with evil intent ignore those bans and go on campus to carry out their dastardly deeds.”
Opposition to Arming Students and Faculty
While many believe allowing guns on campus is the best way for people to protect themselves, others think adding guns to the environment will only serve to make campuses more dangerous. Hildy Saizow, a representative of Arizonans for Gun Safety, told AZ Central, “University presidents are opposed to this, faculty organizations are opposed, student organizations are opposed and Arizona voters are opposed. Nobody is in favor of this except our extreme legislators and we have a lot of those in Arizona.”
Saizow told AZ Central that her organization is committed to opposing the new bill that is slated to come up in the Arizona legislator this year as well, just as they did when the bill was introduced last year.
“It is a really bad idea to allow guns where there are young people in an educational institution,” Saizow told AZ Central. “That is a place where our society for decades has considered gun-free zones and there’s no reason at all to change that. Voters are not clamoring for this.”
The Ongoing Gun Debate on College Campuses
Arizona is not the only state to push for gun bills since the Virginia Tech killings. In 2011, 18 states introduced bills to allow concealed-carry weapons on campuses. Only two of those bills became law – giving Wisconsin and Mississippi college students and faculty the choice of whether to arm themselves at school. Many of the other states faced with this decision determined that allowing guns on campuses would increase danger for student, rather than reduce it.
In Arizona, the gun bill allowing guns on “right of ways” like campus roads and sidewalks was passed by the state legislature, but vetoed by Governor Brewer. According to a report at KOLD
, Brewer asserted that last year’s bill was poorly written and did not define a “right of way” precisely. Brewer was also concerned that the bill as it was written could apply to K-12 campuses as well. However, the governor was also reported in the Phoenix New Times as saying she supports the “thoughtful expansion of where firearms should be allowed.”
“The actual legislation that does so must be both unambiguous and clear to protect the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners,” Brewer stated in the Phoenix New Times
. “Senate Bill 1467 is neither.”
Senate Bill 1467 is the gun bill that Brewer vetoed in 2011. However, state lawmakers believe this new bill has been sufficiently tweaked to remove Brewer’s concerns and increase their odds that the bill will go all the way through to become an official law of the state.
About the New Gun Bill
Unlike last year’s bill, the new bill would require students who want to carry guns to school to have a concealed weapons permit. This additional step ensures students who bring guns onto the campus have additional training on how to handle the weapon. The new bill allows colleges to ban guns inside campus buildings, but restricts them from doing so in parking lots or on campus sidewalks. Colleges that do not want guns inside buildings would need to post restrictions and provide locked storage units for guns while their owners were inside. The lockers are estimated to cost approximately $100 to $300 each, and the expense would have to be absorbed by the college.
The new bill already has the support of the National Rifle Association, as well as numerous state lawmakers. Since 2012 is an election year, an endorsement by the NRA, an organization with plenty of key political ties, is an important endorsement indeed. Legislators have also held closed-door meetings with university officials and law-enforcement officials, in an effort to expand their support base throughout the Arizona community.
“The bill is a lot more clear,” Gould explained to AZ Central. “It also limits it to concealed-carry permit holders, while the bill this last year was for any law-abiding citizen.”
With the necessary changes in place, those in favor of guns on college campuses
feel confident they can get their bill passed this year. However, those opposed to the action vow to fight hard against the measure, ensuring a heated debate is in Arizona’s future.