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Lawmaker: Campus guns bill is dead

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Controversial legislation to allow concealed weapons on Arizona university and college campuses is dead, the proposal’s sponsor said Tuesday.

State Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, told The Associated Press that there is not enough support among lawmakers for the bill.

“Oh, it’s dead,” Gould said, adding later: “I think they just got weak-kneed because it’s an election year, and the universities put on a full-court press because they knew that if I could get it up to the governor, the governor was willing to sign it.”

The measure, which would have allowed gun owners with concealed-carry permits to bring their firearms on campus, drew strong opposition from university officials and police chiefs, among other critics.

Colleges and universities would have only been able to ban guns if they provided secure storage lockers.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a version of Gould’s bill last year. He has said this year’s version addressed Brewer’s concerns, but Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined to comment on whether the governor would have signed this year’s bill. He noted that it had not reached her desk and gone through her office’s process to review bills.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state university system, released a report last month estimating that, under Gould’s proposal, it would cost millions of dollars for the universities to continue to ban guns.

“I don’t think that had any effect, because I think that was a bogus report,” Gould said. “Apparently, they were remodeling the fronts of buildings with lockers, which was ridiculous.”

Gould, who is running for Congress in Arizona’s newly drawn 4th Congressional District, is barred by term limits from returning to the Senate next year. Gould said he’s sure that someone will try to resurrect the campus-carry proposal next year.

Mike Gardener, a lobbyist for several community colleges, said he won’t accept the proposal is dead until the session ends.

“Nothing is really dead around here.”

Another major firearms bill is pending the Senate. That proposal would generally allow people to carry guns into public buildings unless there is on-site security.

That bill is not dead, though it hasn’t advanced in weeks, said Rep. David Gowan, a Sierra Vista Republican who sponsored the proposal.

And a lobbyist for an Arizona group that advocates for gun owners’ rights said a recent alert it sent to its members resulted in a flood of emails urging lawmakers to advance the bill.

“We got it a little boost, so it should be moving soon,” said John Wentling, vice president of the Arizona Citizens Defense League.

Gowan’s bill would generally allow firearms to be barred from public buildings or events only if there are either armed law enforcement officers or armed security guards with metal detectors and X-ray machines present. It would also require the space to have signs and secure gun storage lockers.

The bill is opposed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns. It has already been approved by the House.

A similar proposal to allow guns in public buildings passed the Senate but has stalled after missing a key deadline to advance in the House.

Other legislation dealing with rules about firing guns near occupied structures and another permitting the possession of a gun outside the grounds of a school are pending in the Legislature.

Several firearm bills that specifically deal with hunting are faring better. Two are near passage and one has been signed by the governor.

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