For the second year in a row, a bill that would have allowed some guns into public buildings was defeated in the state Senate.
On a bipartisan vote, the state Senate rejected Senate Bill 1243 on Tuesday. The bill sought to allow people who have a concealed-carry weapon permit to bring their guns into public buildings and events, even if those places ban firearms.
There was no debate, and three Republicans voted with the 13 Senate Democrats to defeat the bill on a 16-14 vote.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who tried to reprise a bill that failed last year. In Senate debate Monday, he argued “the little $1.98 sticker” that establishments post advising no firearms doesn’t keep people safe.
A better way to keep people safe is to allow concealed-weapons permit holders into places that otherwise ban guns, he said. Experienced weapons holders could step in if chaos breaks out, Kavanagh argued.
Democrats pushed back, noting that concealed-carry permit standards have loosened in the last decade. And even trained permit holders don’t always shoot straight, said Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix.
Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix, Frank Pratt of Casa Grande and Bob Worsley of Mesa joined a unified bloc of Democrats to defeat the bill.
A former New York Port Authority officer, Kavanagh accused Democrats of fearmongering. The bill would not encourage concealed-carry holders to walk into a library or a city hall and start shooting, he said. Rather, “this will protect honest, decent people from having criminals hold guns to their heads,” he said.
If building operators are nervous about the concealed-weapon provision, Kavanagh said, they could bring in metal detectors and security officers. Those are the only measures, he argued, that can keep an establishment gun-free.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said that alternative comes with a hefty price tag for governments already working with strained budgets.
Both the Departments of Economic Security and Child Safety ban guns from their premises, citing the sensitive nature of the cases they handle. The state Department of Administration estimated last year that it would cost between $3.7 million and $6.3 million to install metal detectors and staff at entrances to state buildings. In subsequent years, costs would be similar.