PHOENIX – Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce issued a memo this week that allows the state's 30 senators to carry concealed weapons in the legislative chamber despite an existing state law that prohibits weapons in public buildings.
During a visit to the office of Senator Lori Klein (R) on the third-floor of the Senate building, Klein displayed the .38-caliber handgun she carries to work with her every day. Klein recently sparked controversy when she carried the same pistol to Governor Jan Brewer's Sate of the State speech on January 10.
“Well, this has been a right that our state has since its inception and our Senate resident is just upholding that right,” said Klein.
“As you know we’re a citizen legislature," Klein said. "Everyone can walk into our building. We do not have metal detectors, we do not check bags so anyone who wants to be their first line of defense can, if they choose to carry, they can, and there’s quite a few of our members who do.”
Klein would not say exactly how many members come to do the people’s business armed. One of her colleagues, however, would like to know.
“I’d like some disclosure and I’ll be asking the Senate president to give me a list of individuals that he’s granted permission to carry weapons inside the building,” said Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
Sinema is among those who feel Pearce’s directive constitutes a double standard because it does not extend the right to bear arms in the Senate to the average citizen.
“Yes, I definitely think it’s a double standard," said Gerry Hills with Arizonans for Gun Safety. "In a time of all this confusion and chaos after the Tucson shootings, we should have clear rules for everyone.
A sign prominently displayed on the doors to the Senate building clearly states that law requires all weapons must be checked and kept in a storage log.
Klein said she sees no conflict between the law and Pearce’s directive.
“You’re supposed to check it at the desk, however, we have a don’t ask don’t tell policy here so I’m sure there are many people that come in and out every day who don’t check their weapons and certainly a perpetrator who’s bent on doing any harm is not going to check his weapon,” Klein said.
In defending his decision, Pearce said senators did not lose their Second Amendment rights when they were elected.