In an impassioned appeal, the state’s university regents are asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that will allow guns to be carried on limited areas of college campuses.
University presidents and police chiefs also reiterated their opposition to the measure, arguing it would complicate the job for law enforcers and unnecessarily create a riskier –not safer – environment for students.
This united effort from the higher education community represents a last-ditch attempt to block the legislation that would allow guns on public rights-of-way on campuses.
University officials and students vigorously opposed the legislation, but they couldn’t stop its passage. Lawmakers approved the measure, SB1467, mostly along party lines. The House passed it on April 7.
Brewer will have five days to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature once it is sent to her. The Senate is expected to send it to her tomorrow.
In their letters, the university officials argued that current law has achieved a nuanced balance between providing a secure learning environment and upholding the constitutional right to bear arms. This legislation would upend that balance, they said.
“Our university communities and campus police feel very strongly that weapons on campus present an unacceptable threat to campus safety,” said Thomas Anderes, president of the Arizona Board of Regents.
For Northern Arizona University President John Haeger, the debate whether to allow guns on university campuses is not the result of constituents clamoring for changes to existing policies but a “philosophical position” of the measure’s backers.
This year, gun rights advocates have inched inching closer than ever to accomplishing their longstanding goal of allowing guns on school campuses.
They have also accepted a compromise. Before its passage in the Senate, the bill was watered down to limit the carrying of firearms only to public rights-of-way within the school. Originally, it would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms anywhere on university campuses.
In short, people may carry a gun on public roads and sidewalks on a school campus, but can’t bring it inside a building.
Supporters said the legislation helps eliminate “defense-free zones,” areas where guns are prohibited and where people are unable to defend themselves.
Supporters have long argued that the police aren’t able to protect the public and it takes time for them to respond to attacks, like January’s Tucson shooting or the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 that left 32 dead.??They said the idea that potential victims carry guns acts as a deterrent.
But critics said the legislation goes too far, putting Arizona’s gun laws at the fringe of American society.
They also said more guns means more complications. It could lead to confusion if law enforcement officers arrive on the scene of a shooting, only to see multiple people with guns.