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Arizona legislature OKs guns on campus

Arizona's legislature passed a bill Thursday to allow guns on the streets and sidewalks of public college campuses. Texas is also considering a broader bill to allow guns in campus buildings.

By Staff writer / April 8, 2011

Jeff Miller's .40-caliber handgun is shown on his front seat in in Mesa, Ariz., in this 2010 file photo. Miller routinely carries his handgun in his vehicle. A bill passed April 8 by the Arizona House would allow guns on the public streets and sidewalks that pass through college campuses.

Matt York / AP

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The latest attempt to expand gun owners’ rights in Arizona – by allowing them to carry their weapons on public college campuses – is now up to Gov. Jan Brewer.

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On Thursday, Senate Bill 1467, which had already cleared the Senate, passed in the House 33 to 24. It would allow people to carry their guns when walking or driving through campuses on public streets and sidewalks. The bill was narrowed from its original version, which would have allowed guns in campus buildings as well.

Ever since the Virginia Tech massacre, advocates for allowing guns on campus have argued that people should be able to defend themselves in such situations if security can’t respond quickly enough. Some lawmakers have even proposed arming teachers in elementary and secondary schools.

But campus administrators and law-enforcement officers frequently oppose such efforts, concerned that the presence of weapons could lead to more violence.

Only in Utah are people allowed to carry guns into buildings on all public higher-education campuses. In Texas, a bill along those lines was hotly debated this week and appeared to be losing some support, but it could move forward again next week.

Currently Arizona law allows colleges or universities to decide whether to allow guns to be carried on campus, but none of the campuses do, reports The Arizona Republic. Other than Utah, the states are about evenly split between those that leave the decision up to each campus and those that specifically prohibit guns on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The fact that the Arizona bill was narrowed down to public passageways is a relief to gun-control advocates, who still oppose the bill but would be even more concerned if it allowed weapons into classrooms and dorms.

“This is one of those issues [where] parents of college students, law enforcement, students, and administrators are standing up and saying ‘No,’ ” says Brian Malte, director of state legislation at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.

Since 2007, 45 attempts to allow guns on campus have been made in 24 states, and so far, all have failed, Malte says. He expects advocates to push again to allow guns in campus buildings in Arizona next year.

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