If the bill to allow weapons on college and university campuses passes, it will total $13.3 million in one-time costs and $3.1 million annually for the three state universities, according to the Arizona Board of Regents’ fiscal impact study released Wednesday.
SB 1474, a modification to current law, would stop universities from banning firearms on campus. It would require them to allow guns in public accessible buildings unless signs are posted at every entrance stating guns are banned and additional security personnel and gun lockers are provided.
“Even residence halls are considered public because people can enter through the lobbies,” said Lisa Frace, Arizona State University associate vice president of planning and budget. “Really, all of our buildings are public buildings.”
However, a state senator said that the amount of money estimated by the universities is grossly overstated and designed to kill the legislation.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, told Capitol Media Services that the existing ban on guns on college and university campuses is largely meaningless.
He said those who seek to do harm ignore the law. That means they remain armed while more law-abiding citizens are unarmed -- and campus police are minutes away.
“The best thing you can do is match force with equal force,’’ Gould said.
Additionally, he maintains that the colleges can bolt down the lockers, rather than build them into the wall.
“It doesn’t have to be Fort Knox,’’ he said.
But the ASU police chief disagrees.
“We don’t want a locker that can walk off,” said Police Chief John Pickens, speaking figuratively. “We take safety seriously. Any time you’re dealing with weapons in the wrong hands—whether that’s stolen or otherwise—there is a greater public risk.”
The university intends to incorporate the lockers into the design of the building to best secure the lockers, Frace said.
“We know that we need to build a false wall on the exterior of the buildings to secure the lockers,” Frace said. “Our intent would be to minimize the damage to the aesthetics of the buildings.”
Gould acknowledged to Capitol Media Services that the university opposition is taking its toll. He said the National Rifle Association, which supports his measure, just brought in someone from its national office to help lobby the measure and convince doubters to go along.
The cost estimates come as a new informal automated telephone survey of 843 Maricopa County adults found that only 13 percent who responded would favor a law to allow students to carry guns on university and college campuses. Pollster Earl de Berge said 74 percent were opposed.
ABOR adamantly opposes the legislation because there is no evidence the measure will increase campus safety, said Regent Bob McLendon, ABOR chair, in a press release.
“Additionally, this legislation will saddle the universities with additional costs that will cut into educational priorities,” Regent LuAnn Leonard, ABOR vice chair, said in the release.
The bill also is opposed by all three university presidents — including ASU President Michael Crow — all three university police chiefs, the four student governments from each ASU campus and the ASU graduate and professional student government.
The costs study estimates ASU would need $4.7 million the first year, with an additional $1.9 million in operating costs. Additionally, the training for the security personnel would necessitate another $341,000 the first year.
ASU has 254 public accessible buildings across four campuses, the study states. A sign would have to be posted at each of the 9,000 entrances at approximately $10 each.
Estimates point costs to a $13,000 per-building average to install the lockers to the exterior of the walls.
The reoccurring costs of $1.9 million each year would be the associated costs of hiring additional police officers and aides, the report states. Currently, the police department operates on an $11.8 million annual budget, according to Frace.
The estimates assume that the lockers do not have to be individually staffed, but if that’s the case, the report said, the costs would be substantially higher.
Instead, the police department would hire an additional police officer and aide at each of the four campuses at all times, meaning an additional 20 positions university-wide, Pickens said.
“We know there will be unintended consequences of allowing guns on campus—additional calls and reports of suspicious behavior, unintentional discharges, even weapons stolen,” Pickens said. “We respond to every call about a weapon.”
Pickens is worried not that guns will be stolen from lockers, but from unattended backpacks and purses. Petty theft and crimes of opportunity are the most common form of crime at all three universities.
“The board of regents continues to heed the advice of the university police chiefs — the experienced, trusted law enforcement professionals responsible for the safety and well-being of campus visitors — who strongly advise against SB 1474 given the high-risk factor of harmful or deadly situations occurring with more guns on campus,” McLendon said.
NAU would require $2.3 million and $519,000 in startup and annual costs, respectively. UA would require $6.69 million the first year and $692,988 in annual personnel costs.
It is unknown where the funds to cover the cost of installing gun lockers and the associated costs will come from, said Frace.
“It’s basically an unfunded mandate,” Pickens said following an ABOR meeting earlier this month.
Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.