PHOENIX -- Saying that guns are not necessarily appropriate everywhere, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would have forced government agencies to allow weapons in their buildings if they were unwilling to spend money on additional security.
"I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, and I have signed into law numerous pieces of legislation over these past few years to advance gun rights,' Brewer wrote in her veto message. But she said that even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recognized the legitimacy of laws "forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.'
And Brewer said that, from her perspective, this bill opens the door too far.
"Decisions made by government officials at the state, county and municipal level impact all areas of life and can have a profound impact upon an individual's family and livelihood,' she wrote. "Emotions can run high.'
The governor said if there are to be guns allowed in public buildings, those decisions should be "cooperatively reached' and not just mandated by the Legislature.
Existing law allows government agencies to declare buildings off limits to guns by posting signs at the door and providing lockers for people to store their weapons. Charles Heller, spokesman for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said that is meaningless.
"There's a false sense of security from the sign,' he said. Heller said the signs actually can make the building more dangerous.
"The honest people -- those of us who have a permit -- will see the signs and go, 'Oh, the gun's not allowed here, I'll go put in the car,' ' Heller said. "And the criminal will look at it and say, 'Hot diggity, disarmed victims, fresh meat.'
This measure by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would have added a new requirement: metal detectors or X-ray machines, coupled with armed security guards. Gowan said that would ensure that buildings with the signs are truly gun-free zones.
Brewer, in her veto message, said that was not acceptable. She said it would have forced public agencies to "spend untold dollars' to protect officials and employees.
But Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said that cost argument does not wash.
He asked what would happen if a city were to decide to outlaw protests because of the high additional costs for police overtime.
"People would freak out,' he said, saying that their First Amendment rights were being trampled in the name of finances.
"I would say the same thing about this,' Smith said, saying Second Amendment rights are just as sacrosanct.
"Show me in the Constitution where I can't carry it here,' he continued. Smith said he reads the amendment to simply say that the rights of individuals to bear arms "shall not be infringed,' with no caveats.
That constitutional right is also behind the support for the measure by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson.
"The Second Amendment is under attack in many parts of the country,' he said.
"Thank goodness we have more gun rights in this country than anywhere else in the world,' Melvin continued. "But we have to stand firm here for the Second Amendment.'
Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson discounted arguments that the current system of signs and lockers only makes the buildings less safe for law-abiding citizens.
"I don't know how he quantifies that people are ignoring the signs,' he said. And Benson said that presumes that laws, absent something more, are necessarily ineffective.
"We have all different kinds of laws in the state that you can make an argument that somebody is ignoring,' he said. "That doesn't mean we do away with those laws.'
Heller, however, said that's easy for Brewer and her staff to say: The executive office tower where they are located is secured with metal detectors, X-ray machines and guards.
"If you want to know where they're serious about security, go look at a courtroom, go look at the tower the governor is in,' he said.
"When they are serious about security, they install security,' Heller continued. "When they're not serious about it, they put up a sign.'
He said government agencies only want people to think they are serious about security.
"It's a placebo,' Heller said.
Brewer appeared to leave the door open to signing some measure of this type at some point in the future.
But she said it will have to be vastly different than what was sent to her. And she said more interests will need to be taken into account.
"Ultimately, there must be a more thorough and collaborative discussion of the proper place for guns in the public arena,' the governor wrote. "In addition, we need to thoroughly consider public venues and situations in which weapons may not be appropriate, or may be prohibited by federal law.'
More like this story
- Group thinks teachers should be allowed to carry guns
- Governor vetoes concealed weapons in public buildings, calls HB 2339 'unfunded mandate'
- Sen. Gould blasts governor over gun law veto
- Governor vetoes guns-on-campus bill and 'birther' bill
- Legislature passes last-minute measures; Brewer again eyeing veto