Legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons on college and university campuses in Arizona has died, according to the bill’s sponsor.
Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Senate Bill 1474 lost support among lawmakers in the state. Gould, who proposed the legislation, said that many lawmakers got “weak-kneed” because it’s an election year, and if the legislation had made it to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk, she would have signed it.
The measure would have allowed gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms on campus. UA President Eugene Sander said he was “very relieved” that the legislation died, and that it would have hurt the UA community if enacted.
“We are gratified that the voices of our students, faculty and ordinary citizens have been heard,” Sander said. “Having guns on campus is a notion we simply cannot support as we consider the safety of our students, employees and our community in general. Along with our stakeholders we will remain watchful and will continue to oppose any measure that puts people on our campus at risk.”
Many student groups lobbied against the measure and told legislators that the majority of students didn’t even want it proposed, let alone passed.
“Not only did I think it (the legislation) wasn’t right, students overall were against it,” said James Allen, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. “The argument will never change that the majority of students will never want this bill to pass.”
In order to show this to the Legislature, ASUA conducted a three-day survey in February and asked several thousand students if they supported the measure, Allen said. ASUA members surveyed random students on campus and passed out surveys in certain classrooms. More than 80 percent of respondents said that they did not support it, and did not want concealed weapons to be carried on the UA campus.
Additionally, the Arizona Board of Regents released a fiscal impact study earlier this month that examined how much it would cost the three state universities to safely allow guns on campus if the legislation passed. It would have 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. Although the proposed legislation did not require the universities to build storage lockers in the buildings, the three universities would have done so. These costs would have been passed onto students, said Dan Fitzgibbon, an economics senior and board chair of the Arizona Students’ Association, a lobbying group that works to ensure higher education in the state is affordable and accessible.
“The cost increases in Arizona universities over the past several years have been so dramatic that it would have been silly to say ‘Here’s another tens of millions that students will have to pay for these things they don’t want in the first place,’” Fitzgibbon said.
Aside from extra costs, Fitzgibbon said that the bill would have alienated certain out-of-state students and faculty, as these individuals would have never come to the UA had they known that legislators in the state would propose such measures.
“I’ve talked to many professors and students who said they wouldn’t have felt safe,” he said. “Many faculty members don’t want to teach in classrooms where students would be allowed to carry firearms.”
Some students disagreed, and said that the measure would have made them feel safer walking around campus.
John Deakin, a civil engineering senior and gun owner, said that college and universities who ban firearms are targets for shooters on “murderous rampages” because they cannot truly defend against them.
“Police don’t show up until after the fact,” he said. “If people could be trained and take a concealed carry class, they could protect campus a little bit better.”
Because people are allowed to carry firearms around Tucson and the state, Deakin said, there is no reason for someone to feel unsafe around guns on campus if they feel safe off campus.
“If you look at it, you’re living in Tucson. There’s a lot of gun owners here,” he said. “A lot of them carry regularly.”
Although student leaders and the regents say they are glad the bill died, both Allen and Fitzgibbon noted that similar legislation could come up in the future. Sarah Harper, a spokeswoman for the regents, said they are still waiting to ensure that the legislation truly died.
“While Senator Gould’s indication that he has pulled the plug on efforts to allow guns on campus is welcome news to all of us within the Arizona university system who have opposed such legislation, we are mindful that no legislation is officially dead until the legislative session ends,” Harper said.