The controversial “guns on campus” bill has died quietly for lack of support in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill’s sponsor has confirmed.
The bill (SB 1474) spurred a vehement public outcry, but its death got little attention.
“The bill ceased to move forward about three weeks ago,” said Senator Ron Gould, the sponsor of the bill and a candidate for the redrawn District 4 congressional seat that now includes Rim Country.
Gould is running against Congressman Paul Gosar in the Republican primary.
The public’s response to SB 1474 included letters of opposition from all of the universities, their police chiefs and community colleges in Arizona.
The outcry prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to spike the bill unless Gould could find 16 senate votes.
“I could only guarantee 13,” said Gould.
Gould blamed the new voting districts created by the Independent Redistricting Committee for the lack of votes.
Gould said many Republicans now must run in competitive districts and so supporting a controversial bill would not help re-election prospects.
“All the Republicans wanted to pass this, but because of politics, they backed away” he said.
Gould introduced the bill as an extension of a 1994 law that allows gun owners to carry concealed guns, with a permit, into government buildings.
The bill also was in response to the murder of a governmental page on the Arizona State University campus. The killer stole the page’s laptop.
“The ASU police chief said it would take 25 minutes and five officers to enter a building (that a gunman was shooting in), said Gould. “Do you know how many people would die in that time? Police can’t be everywhere.”
Many university officials said the law would not make campuses safer and objected to the expense of building gun lockers outside the rooms and lecture halls to store the guns while students and staff attended events.
GCC Board President Larry Stephenson was pleased the legislation died in committee.
“This proposed legislation attempted to solve a problem that simply does not exist on the campuses of Gila Community College or the other college campuses across Arizona,” he wrote in an e-mail. “While respecting the right to bear arms within the parameters of the law, it is reassuring that the Arizona State Legislature has decided not to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses. The Governing Board of Gila Community College is pleased that this piece of proposed legislation is not being considered any further, and that the potential costs that would have been incurred had this proposal become law will not become real costs.”
The cost of building lockers alarmed many, said Gould, but he dismissed those concerns.
“I checked on the price of an 18 compartment gun locker online,” he said, “It cost less than $500.”
SB 1474 was Gould’s second attempt to pass “guns on campus” legislation. His attempt last year ended up on the governor’s desk only to be vetoed.
The Lake Havasu City businessman had hoped passing SB 1474 this year would have planted a seed of fear in criminals’ minds knowing they would face victims who were armed and protected.
“Most crime happens off-campus,” he said, “At least (SB 1474) protected you from the building to your car.”
Gould noted that the idea’s dead unless someone else picks up the torch, since he’s termed out and so will not return to the Arizona Legislature next session.