Gov. Jan Brewer rebuffed gun-rights advocates by vetoing for a second time a bill to allow guns on public property, and sent a strong message that such a proposal would need wider support from police, cities and the public before she would sign it.
Brewer’s veto of the bill, which could have let guns into city halls, police stations, county courts, senior centers, swimming pools, libraries and the state Capitol, was the latest setback for a push to expand the right to carry guns in public places in Arizona.
Legislative efforts to put guns on university campuses, just outside K-12 school grounds and in homeowners associations all appear to have run into roadblocks this session.
Citing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in her veto letter, Brewer, who vetoed a similar bill last year, recognized the legitimacy of laws banning guns in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.
“The decisions to permit or prohibit guns in these extremely sensitive locations — whether a city council chamber or branch office staffed with state workers — should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law-enforcement officials and local government leaders,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter.
House Bill 2729, sponsored by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, was pushed by the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group. It proposed making it legal for people to enter public property with a weapon unless the property was secured by either a state or federal certified law-enforcement officer or an armed security guard and metal detectors.
National and state gun-advocacy groups supported the bill. Cities, counties, law-enforcement agencies and business organizations opposed it, saying they would have had to either let guns into buildings where the public would rather not have them or pay millions of dollars to provide the security required to keep them out.
A study conducted by legislative staff estimates that security costs for a government entity to ban guns could have ranged from $5,000 to $113,800 per public entrance in the first year with ongoing costs of $54,400 to $108,800 per year.
Brewer said the fiscal impact was one reason she opposed the bill, but she also mentioned broader concerns and even went as far as to offer a warning to gun lobbyists who may try again next year.
“While I appreciate the efforts of the bill sponsor … there must be a more thorough and collaborative discussion of the proper place for guns in the public arena,” Brewer wrote.
Charles Heller, communications director of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, criticized Brewer’s decision.
“We expected more from an alleged friend of freedom,” he said. “This means that some people will still be deluded into thinking that a sign (banning guns in public buildings) makes them safe.”
He declined to comment on whether his group may try to run the bill again next year, but he said it will change one tactic.
“We just need to put more letters on her desk next time she’s thinking about vetoing so she knows how much people care about freedom,” he said.
Gowan did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Bill opponents were thrilled at the veto — and this session’s trend against expanding gun rights.
“Hallelujah,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson. “It seems as if (Brewer) is saying that the public is not asking for these bills. She got it. Thank goodness.”
Aboud said she hopes the gun-advocacy lobbyists get it, too.
“Twice run, twice passed, twice vetoed,” she said. “How many times is it going to take for people to figure it out? This is making our state a laughing- stock.”
A similar bill passed the Legislature last year, but Brewer vetoed it, saying it was poorly written. Brewer said her concerns from last year were not addressed in the new version.
Arizona ranks among the most pro-gun states in the nation. Two years ago, it became one of only a handful of states to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Hildy Saizow, president of the grassroots group Arizonans for Gun Safety, said Arizonans don’t want these bills.
“Finally, we’re getting some common sense in here saying, ‘No, this is bad public-safety policy, and we’re not going to allow this to happen,’” Saizow said. “No guns on college campuses, no guns in public events, no guns around schools. The gun lobby has hit its limit, and for good reason.”
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