The Arizona Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that would prevent most government agencies from banning guns in their buildings and events unless they install airport-style security screening.
The bill exempts schools, universities, courts and police stations from the public buildings where gun owners would be allowed to carry their weapons. Another bill that would allow guns on university campuses will be considered later.
But the law would apply to government owned facilities such as stadiums and basketball arenas that are not leased by a private entity.
The proposed law also contains several other provisions favored by gun rights advocates. They include a prohibition on lawsuits against gun dealers or manufacturers stemming from shootings and a requirement that guns seized by law enforcement be sold and not destroyed.
The bill is now poised for a formal vote by the Senate and that passage would send it to the House.
Public buildings and events could only ban firearms if metal detectors were installed, armed security guards or police present and lockboxes available for gun owners to secure their weapons.
The law is one of several being considered in the Legislature this session and follows several years of guns rights bills easily passing. Last year, lawmakers removed the requirement for a permit for a concealed weapon, and the year before they eased restrictions on gun owners carrying their weapons into bars or restaurants that serve alcohol, among other new laws.
Guns rights advocates argue that banning guns in public buildings without screening all who enter only disarms law-abiding citizens and not people who want to ignore the law or do harm. Essentially, they argue, such bans only disarm the honest people and prevent them from defending themselves if a criminal or crazy person decides to shoot up the place.
Gun safety advocates say the proposed law is driven by ideology and not common-sense.
“It’s dangerous,” said Hildy Saizow, president of Arizonans for Gun Safety. “There are some things like government buildings, public events, universities, that have been weapons-free zones — and it’s for a reason. They’re safer.”
The bill sponsor, Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, disagreed.
“Actually, it’s pretty common sense,” Gould said. “If it’s a facility that should be secure, it should be secure.”
A fiscal analysis of the bill shows that it would cost about $5,000 per entrance to buy needed equipment and between $45,000 and $90,000 a year per door for staffing to secure a government building or event under the bill’s requirements.
During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said the argument by supporters that more people with guns could prevent a mass shooting is misguided.
“Folks, let’s be real and let’s be honest,” Gallardo said. “This notion that if we are able to have additional firearms at a shooting we can prevent the shooting, this notion that more guns would solve a problem, is ridiculous, it’s crazy.”
Senators rejected amendments Gallardo offered that would have closed the so-called gun show loophole by requiring buyers to prove they are citizens. They also turned away an amendment, again championed by Gallardo that would have exempted large sports venues from the gun carry rule.
Gould said he agreed with Gallardo that a stadium where beer flows and emotions run high is not a good place for people with guns. All the more reason to require that such places either screen everyone or not ban firearms by putting up a sign.
“There are places where it is appropriate to disarm people,” Gould said. “But stickers don’t make people safe — metal detectors and security guards will.”