Safety advocates protest guns on campus

CONTESTING CONCEALMENT: Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, speaks out at the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday morning against proposed legislation that would allow concealed weapons to be carried at public events, government institutions and on university campuses. (Photo by Alexandra Irving)

“Funds not guns!” yelled UA graduate student Emily Connally at a press conference riddled with people protesting Senate Bills 1467 and 1201.

Legislators, advocates and educators came together Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol to oppose bills that would allow guns in public buildings and on campuses in Arizona.

People involved in the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, Arizonans for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence were all in attendance to show strong opposition to SB 1467 and SB 1201.

SB 1467, a bill that would allow students and university employees to carry a concealed weapon on sidewalks or streets that go through the university, passed March 14 in the Senate and is ready for a vote by the full House.

SB 1201, which passed the Senate March 3 and is awaiting a full House vote, would allow concealed weapons in government buildings and at public events.

Connally, a lifelong gun owner, said she is not worried about being attacked and therefore doesn’t need to be armed while on school grounds.

“I’m worried about unintentional harm,” Connally said. “I’m worried about accidental shootings. I’m worried about students who are not lifelong owners of these weapons getting a gun because they can.”

Hildy Saizow, president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, distributed public opinion polling results at the press conference.

According to the poll, conducted in mid-February by American Viewpoint, a Republican polling firm, 69 percent of Arizonans and 56 percent of gun owners opposed SB 1467. Seventy-five percent of Arizonans and 72 percent of gun owners opposed SB 1201.

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, and Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Tolleson, spoke against the two legislative proposals.

“Our state government should be focused on jobs, should be focused on the economy and should be focused on education, not divisive legislation that tears our state apart,” Farley said.

Farley said the priority at the Capitol should be improving citizens’ quality of life, not looser gun bills that are unneeded.

Gallardo said it is time for the public to take a stand and voice its concerns with the proposed legislation.

“It is time now that the public stand up and say no more, that we want Arizona’s approach to be rational,” Gallardo said. “We want to be able to make sure that our facilities are safe.”

He said these new bills have nothing to do with the Second Amendment.

“This is about public safety and a common-sense approach,” Gallardo said. “That’s what today is all about.”

Micah Wimmer, a chemistry senior and the president of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus at ASU, supports allowing guns on campus.

Wimmer said he was in support of citizens who fit the legal criteria being able to carry a weapon anywhere they felt they needed to.

“It might be time to allow students to defend themselves against armed perpetrators,” Wimmer said in an email.

Wimmer also said no one can really determine whether allowing firearms on campus will decrease crime.

“The fact is, if people on campus were allowed to defend themselves, there might not be less crime, there might be less victims,” Wimmer said.

Gary Grossman, associate professor in the School of Letters and Sciences at ASU, attended the press conference to voice his opposition to SB 1467.

Grossman described a scenario that he didn’t think was very far off.

“We have, in Tempe, a campus in which 50,000 people are crammed in together,” Grossman said. “We have a situation in which the vast majority are young people, in an environment where there is a great deal of stress and sometimes alcohol, and sometimes fights or bad things happen. Imagine that environment armed.”

Reach the reporter at acirving@asu.edu