New gun law waits for governor's decision [POLL]

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A bill that would allow firearms in Arizona’s public buildings sits on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk, waiting for her approval or veto.

State legislators passed the measure, sponsored by Republicans in both the House and Senate. They say the more armed, law-abiding citizens, the bigger the deterrent for criminals.

The idea has been controversial for many months. Brewer vetoed a similar measure last year. She cited confusing language.

Other critics say guns do not belong in public buildings, which include libraries, pools, permit offices, elections offices and many more.

“I know people say with this law, it allows the good guys to be armed, too, but to me that’s crazy,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

In addition to being against the bill on its merits, Wilcox and other city and county officials statewide are voicing concerns over the cost of implementing the new rules.

The bill’s language allows cities and counties to opt out, and keep the ban on guns. However, if they do, they would be required to increase security at public buildings.

Several officials call the cost of doing so staggering. Each public entrance would need a metal detector, gun lockers and two armed guards.

Maricopa County has 111 buildings that would need the new security. County officials estimate the new equipment would cost $11 million, while the new guard staff would add another $20 million. The first year's total cost, if the county insists on keeping the ban on guns, would be roughly $30 million.

It’s money Wilcox says the county does not have.

“It would be taken from the general fund and mean cuts -- cuts to health programs, court programs, environmental programs and more," she explained.

The cost would be less for cities, but some, like the city of Surprise, openly oppose the bill.

A state report says Queen Creek, Lake Havasu City, Glendale, Kingman and Prescott all ran estimates of what it would cost them to keep their ban on guns, regardless of what the governor decides.

Each estimate came in between $344,000 and $540,000 per year for each city.

Sponsors of SB2729 say the cost should not be an issue, and remind cities and counties that it would cost them nothing to allow guns in their buildings.

“There’s no price too high to secure one’s constitutional rights,” said sponsor Steve Smith, a Republican from Maricopa.

“If it costs a few extra dollars to install a metal detector or hire a guard, so be it," he said.

Brewer must sign or veto the bill by midweek. She can also choose to let the bill become law without her signature.