Gov. Jan Brewer this week vetoed a bill that would make it harder for town councils to keep guns out of public buildings. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson) and supported by Rim Country’s other representatives — Sen. Chester Crandell (R-Heber) and Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff).
HB2339 would have required towns and counties to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to take a gun into a public building, unless the town had provided metal detectors and gun lockers at every entrance and exit.
Under current law, towns and counties can bar guns from public buildings if they post the prohibition and provide nearby gun lockers.
Gov. Brewer’s veto message said, “I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment and I have signed into law numerous pieces of legislation to advance and protect gun rights. However, I cannot support this measure in its current form. I am also concerned about the fiscal impact of this legislation. This bill would establish an unfunded mandate on our state and local government. It is an unnecessary diversion of limited resources.”
The governor also vetoed HB2517, which would have imposed significant penalties on local officials if they ever came up with gun regulations more restrictive than those approved by the state Legislature, a provision apparently aimed at Tucson. The provisions included removal from office, restitution to the gun owner and a ban on using public funds to defend against complaints.
The bill would have allowed gun owners who felt local rules had infringed on their rights more than the state Legislature had allowed to seek damages of up to $100,000. The state would pay the award out of money it would have otherwise given to the town, like shared sales and income tax payments.
Rep. Barton, in previous interviews, defended her bill about concealed weapons permits, saying people who get the permits go through background checks as extensive as police officers. She said the bill would make buildings safer, by ensuring law-abiding citizens have guns in public buildings in case gang members and others ignore the rules and bring in their own guns.
“Street gangs and gang members and criminals have always carried their guns into city hall and the public library. They simply ignore the signs. There are no costs any different than what it is now unless the city council decides to incur a cost,” said Barton.
Payson has run into problems with gun owners with concealed weapons permits recently. In one case, a man who had criticized the town repeatedly for various ordinances went to the police department and asked if his backpack would be searched if he brought it into the town hall. Police officers considered the questioning threatening and began to monitor him. He then bought two guns at a local gun store, but used an out-of-date address. The gun store owner routinely notified the police about multiple gun purchases and the police called in the federal ATF, which arrested, held and ultimately released the man.
Police also had run-ins with Mike Voden who had a concealed weapons permit and brought his gun to town hall. Police ultimately said he had to check his gun in at the police station if he wanted to go into town hall. At one point, Detective Matt Van Camp testified that he came close to shooting when Voden pulled out a wooden gun and shot a rubber band at council members. Van Camp testified in court that at the last minute he realized the gun wasn’t real.
Voden subsequently shot dead his neighbor. The man came into Voden’s yard to retrieve his dog. Voden told police that the man attacked him and he shot in self-defense. He is awaiting trial on murder charges.
Rep. Barton said her bill would have affected neither of those cases. “Didn’t Mike Voden ignore the existing piece of paper at the door? What’s contained in my legislation would have changed that fact? Nothing.”
Payson hasn’t provided gun lockers at the entrances to town hall, so technically it cannot enforce a ban on bringing guns into public buildings under existing law. However, without the governor’s veto anyone with a conceal carry permit could bring their guns into town hall even if it was posted and even if the town provided gun lockers.
Rep. Barton had previously amended to bill to exempt schools and community colleges from its provisions, leaving them free to keep guns off campuses even without gun lockers and metal detectors.