PHOENIX - There won't be any faculty or students carrying guns on campus legally, at least not this year.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said Tuesday that he has pulled the plug on efforts to allow those with state-issued concealed-weapons permits to carry their guns into classrooms.
Gould said he could not round up the necessary votes, and a measure to let the schools keep the weapons out of the buildings by providing lockers failed to sway foes.
The move is a victory for the universities and community colleges that sent their police chiefs to the Capitol to object to what had been a popular issue.
Gould got a similar bill approved last year, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, who said it would be too hard to enforce.
"In reality, I think it's an election-year question," he said.
"There were some legislators that were feeling weak-kneed about it," he said. "The universities were putting a full-court press on them because they knew if I could get the bill up to the governor, the governor would probably sign it."
Complicating matters, Gould said, is that lawmakers are all looking at running in newly revised legislative districts. He said many of those new districts are more politically competitive than they were in the past, meaning it would be easier for challengers to paint the incumbents as "radicals."
Gould contends the existing ban on guns on campuses is largely meaningless, saying those who are bent on breaking the law - and maybe even harming someone - are undeterred by the penalties for illegally carrying a firearm.
The result, he said, is law-abiding faculty and students who are unarmed and unable to protect themselves, with campus police usually too far away to make an immediate difference.
The plan to disallow guns in campus buildings as long as they could be placed in lockers, as is done at other public buildings like city offices, proved no more acceptable, with the Board of Regents estimating buying and installing them at all three universities would cost more than $13 million.
Gould called the cost estimate an exaggeration by those who oppose guns.
"The reason they oppose it is that liberals run the university system," he continued. "Liberals don't like guns. They don't want guns on their playground."
The death of SB 1474 still leaves one other major measure on firearms alive.
Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, is proposing to tighten up the existing law that makes public buildings weapons-free zones if lockers are provided. If HB 2729 is approved, a public agency also would be required to have armed security guards using X-ray machines or metal detectors. It has passed the House but still needs Senate approval.
"In reality, I think it's an election-year question. There were some legislators that were feeling weak-kneed about it. The universities were putting a full-court press on them because they knew if I could get the bill up to the governor, the governor would probably sign it."
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City