Arizona rules barring guns from college dormitories could be targeted in legal challenges resulting from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision voiding an absolute ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., people close to the issue said Thursday.
Todd Rathner, a board member of the National Rifle Association who lives in Tucson, said the high court's conclusion that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual's right to bear arms means that right extends to their homes.
Rathner said he can foresee a scenario in which someone would say that individual right to bear arms extends to their right to have guns where they live. And that, he said, might include those who reside on college campuses where weapons are prohibited.
"It is a legitimate question to ask," Rathner said. "Could a person living on a college campus be barred a right to bear arms?"
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas would not weigh in on that specific issue, but did say challenges to gun laws in Arizona, including the ban on guns in dormitories, are likely to flow from the Supreme Court's ruling.
"I would expect a number of challenges as the dust settles," he said.
The high court ruled on a 5-4 vote Thursday that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms is an individual right. In striking down the gun ban in Washington, D.C., the court decided the Constitution does not allow "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."
However, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, did say that some restrictions on gun ownership are permissible, including "long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."
At Bear Arms Guns & Accessories in Scottsdale, manager Hector Riemersma said the court's ruling makes "kind of official" his view that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to have a gun. But he's still concerned advocates of gun control will still try to "find some other route around it," and will continue to push for restrictions on firearms ownership.
Arizona State University deems its campus a "weapons-free zone," meaning only police are allowed to possess firearms. That includes people living in dormitories.
Sharon Keeler, a spokeswoman for ASU, said an attorney with the Arizona Board of Regents reviewed the ruling and concluded it would not affect the ban of guns on campus. The majority's opinion specifically recognizes restrictions on gun possession at schools are permissible, Keeler said.
"Based on that, we're not anticipating any change to our policy at this time," she said.
Jacob Lines, a deputy Pima County attorney, pointed out that the case before the high court dealt with a city ordinance that made it illegal for residents to have a working firearm, even in their own homes.
"It's sort of the most extreme regulation that you can have, basically an effective ban on handguns in your own home," he said. "If you're looking at a college campus, people living there might be able to make that same argument, saying, 'Hey, this is my home.'"
Lines' boss, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, disagreed. LaWall said "schools" include college campuses. She said a residence hall located on a campus "is a different place than an individual home."
And LaWall said she believes that the university, as the landlord, could make the prohibition of weapons a condition of being able to rent space there.
Tucson attorney David Hardy, who filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of members of the state's congressional delegation and some legislators seeking to void the Washington ban, said he sees a much clearer place someone could use Thursday's Supreme Court decision to challenge an Arizona law: The ability of judges to take away the right to bear arms of anyone who is under an "order of protection" in a domestic violence complaint.
Hardy pointed out these orders do not involve the same full-blown trials that would be involved in criminal cases, where conviction by a jury could result in a defendant losing his or her civil rights.
"Lots of judges will issue those at the drop of a hat," he said.
Gun owners across the East Valley have been anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling in the case, said Bridger Kimball, general manager of Caswell Indoor Shooting Range in Mesa. The case has frequently been a subject of discussion among customers at Caswell, but since the court sided with gun owners much of the anxiety will dissipate, he said.
"In Arizona, we never really had tight restrictions," he said. "So that basically just ensured that we won't have any more regulations."
Robert Buchanan, who owns the Airguns of Arizona gun shop in downtown Gilbert, praised the court's decision as more than a victory for gun owners.
"It goes deeper than the ability to own a gun," Buchanan said. "We've at least for a little while been able to maintain a little bit more of our rights that our forefathers gave us. It seems like we keep giving freedoms away hand over fist. And maybe for a small segment in time, we get to keep one and at least give us the warm fuzzy feeling that we aren't giving our country away."
Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, who has a shooting range in his basement, echoed that sentiment and praised the court's recognition that people have a right to own a gun for their own protection.
"When you get some 250-pound thug approaching a 95-pound woman, she doesn't have much of a choice if she's not armed with a gun," Berman said. "People should have that right and I'm glad it's been cleared up."
Queen Creek-area resident Mike Talbot, who has a federal firearms license allowing him to buy guns from dealers for resale, said the gun ban in Washington, D.C., was too restrictive and that he is pleased the court recognized the Second Amendment protects individual rights.
"People have a right to protect themselves," he said.