PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's state university system says it would cost millions of dollars to ban guns from university buildings under a bill pending in the Legislature.
The three-university system currently prohibits guns from buildings and campus grounds, but the bill would allow the ban to remain only if universities post signs and provide lockboxes for weapons at building entrances. Otherwise, people with concealed weapon permits could legally take concealed weapons inside.
A priority of gun-rights backers, the campus guns bill is a revised version of one passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year.
Supporters of the bill say people are defenseless against armed criminals, while opponents say allowing guns on campuses could lead to tragic mistakes.
University officials oppose the bill, and estimates released Wednesday by the Board of Regents say it would cost $13.3 million in initial costs and $3.1 million annually to keep gun bans in place.
Most of the initial costs would pay to modify 732 buildings and other sites to provide places for lockboxes. Other costs would include buying the lockboxes and signs to prohibit guns.
The ongoing costs would be mostly salary and benefits for dozens of additional police officers and police aides at the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University, which has four campuses.
The bill's sponsor, Lake Havasu City Republican Ron Gould, said the universities' cost estimates are inflated and based on a faulty supposition that the bans need to stay in place. "They're assuming that they're going to post all the buildings, and if they don't post all the buildings, they don't incur the costs."
Gould noted that the bill does not require posting of armed officers to enforce gun bans, but Arizona State University Police Chief John Pickens said his department would need to add officers and aides to handle "unintended consequences."
Those would include responding to thefts of firearms and anticipated calls from people who see weapons despite the requirement that they must be concealed.
Gould's bill has idled in the Senate since being endorsed by a committee on Feb. 6, but he said it remains alive and that a National Rifle Association lobbyist is expected to encourage lawmakers to support it.
Also Wednesday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to one of two related bills that would generally allow a person to carry a gun into a non-school public building unless a ban is backed up by armed security controlling all the entrances. The other bill is pending in the House.
Debate on the Senate bill given preliminary approval touched on an Ohio school shooting this week and a Tucson shooting rampage last year.
Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, cited the Ohio shooting while saying that allowing guns in public facilities "scares people, and it puts people at alert."
Gould, who supported the bill debated Wednesday, argued that criminals ignore gun bans. "The best thing you can do is match force with equal force, but we disarm our people ... and you create a gun-free zone."
Gallardo also said the focus should be on keeping guns out of the hands of people like Jared Loughner, the man accused in the January 2010 shooting that left six people dead.
Gould responded, saying Loughner was mentally disturbed and the problem was that college officials and others who previously came in contact with him "never followed through, and he was not adjudicated as mentally defective."
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shooting that killed six people and left 13 wounded, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is undergoing treatment at a Missouri prison facility in a bid to make him mentally fit to stand trial.Tags: