Student leaders fear funding for gun storage could come from tuition
Arizona university students may pay the price to keep weapons out of classrooms if proposed legislation to allow guns on campus passes.
The Arizona Board of Regents released a fiscal impact study that examined how much it would cost the three state universities to safely allow guns on campus if Senate Bill 1474 were to pass. It would cost Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the UA $13.3 million in one-time costs and $3.1 million annually in operations to equip 732 public buildings across the three campuses with gun storage lockers.
Since the proposed legislation does not require the universities to build storage lockers in the buildings, the Legislature will not fund the lockers. With an unfunded mandate from the state, student tuition may be caught in the middle if the universities cannot collect $13.3 million upfront from other entities, said Dan Fitzgibbon, an economics senior and chairman of the Arizona Students’ Association, a lobbying group that works to make higher education affordable and accessible in the state.
“I feel that these costs are going to be passed on to students,” Fitzgibbon said. “I am confident that the way this is going to resolve is by increasing students’ tuition.”
James Allen, president of Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said tuition is often seen as an avenue to make up for various costs. Funding for the storage lockers, he said, would most likely come from increasing student tuition.
The fiscal impact study recommends that gun lockers be constructed on the outside wall of each building. The installation costs are estimated to be an average of $17,000, but will depend on the architecture of each building. The number of lockers required in the buildings will vary by building size.
“The lockers would be the same, but it depends on whether the lockers will be attached to a red brick building, steel or a historical building,” said UA Police Chief Anthony Daykin. “A lot of different considerations have to be made for each building in the construction of the lockers.”
Each university would also need additional campus police personnel if the legislation were to pass. The slated first-year cost of $13.3 million would include training and certification. The annual cost of $3.1 million would include salary and benefits for the additional police officers.
Although building lockers would play down the bill and take away from the right to protect oneself in the building, it is still a step in the right direction, said Coty McKenzie, a political science senior and the state director of Students for Concealed Carry. People are overlooking the fact that the bill does not require Arizona universities to build lockers, he said.
ASUA surveyed 2,600 UA students on the issue. Eighty percent said they did not want guns on campus, citing decreased safety and lack of education as reasons.
“There has been a number of faculty, parents and students that said if guns were allowed on campus, they would go teach somewhere else or transfer to a different university,” Daykin said.
If the bill passed, the two students who were mugged in the Warren Underpass earlier this month could have protected themselves, McKenzie said.
“Now there are more than 220 schools nationwide that allow concealed carry and none of them have had any statistical evidence where enrollment has gone down,” he said.
Where is SB 1474 now?
The Arizona House of Representatives voted to approve the proposed legislation on March 7, but the measure has not cleared the Senate. It is also unclear if Gov. Jan Brewer, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, will sign the bill or not.