Saying the Second Amendment doesn't stop at the door of government buildings, the House voted 38-20 Wednesday to let visitors bring their weapons in.
The measure, a version of which already has been approved by the Senate, would overrule existing laws that let public agencies keep guns out simply by posting signs at the doors and providing places for those coming in to check their weapons. SB 1201 would impose the additional requirements that cities, counties and state and other public agencies would have to have security guards along with metal detectors.
Lawmakers did agree to carve out an exception, though, for sports stadiums, ball fields and arenas as well as other public facilities used for events like trade shows and conventions. That came amid questions of whether these sites, most of which are owned or built by the public but operated by private sports teams, would have to allow fans to be armed or install metal detectors at each door.
And the legislation keeps in place, at least for now, the ability of state universities and community colleges to adopt rules to keep guns off their campuses. That, however, could soon change: A bill awaiting action by Gov. Jan Brewer would open the "public rights of way'' on and through campuses to guns.
But House members refused to accept another proposal to permit cities to keep their libraries, pools and community centers as weapons-free zones.
At the heart of the issue is whether people who go to government buildings are safer with or without their weapons.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said the existing restrictions essentially are meaningless. He said signs on the door, absent more, do not keep out those who are armed.
Farnsworth said his belief is that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is a restriction on the power of government. He said the way he reads it, state and local governments have no right to restrict the right of citizens to protect themselves.
He called this a "compromise,'' saying if the government wants to take away that self-defense ability, then it has a responsibility to ensure that no one else in the building is armed. And that, Farnsworth said, can be done only if there are guards and metal detectors.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said that will create a major expense for cities. The result, he said, will be higher taxes or increased cost of admission to public events with a charge.
Farnsworth said the cost need not be huge, saying the metal detector requirement could be met by giving the security guard a hand-held wand.