Arizona governor shoots down campus carry bill

AP Photo/Martha Irvine

College campuses are not immune to violent crime, unfortunately, but Arizonans who work or attend class on campuses are unable to protect themselves with a firearm thanks to the current law, which allows the board of regents at state-owned colleges and universities to set their own policies. Virtually no public secondary education institution allows for concealed carry on campus, but the Republican-controlled legislature was hoping to change that this year.

Lawmakers approved a measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Rachel Jones of Tucson that would have allowed licensed concealed carry holders to lawfully carry in most locations on campuses, but Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs broke out the veto pen this week and kept the current prohibitions in place.

In her veto message, Hobbs made a thoroughly unconvincing argument in favor of keeping adult students and staff disarmed.

Hobbs, in her veto message, said allowing weapons to be carried or stored on campus “could lead to greater anxiety among students, staff and faculty.’’

“It may also lead to increased risk on campus and other unintended consequences,’’ she wrote. “We cannot set a precedent that allows guns on campus.’’

Hobbs rejected five other bills Tuesday, bringing her tally so far this year to 72.

Jones told colleagues during hearings that the campus guns bill was simply an extension of the Second Amendment and its wording that the right of people to be armed “shall not be infringed.’’

“These college campuses are funded by the state, are funded by the taxpayers,’’ she said, calling it “unacceptable to me’’ that people cannot bring their weapons onto those campuses. Jones said law-abiding citizens who are armed can thwart shootings by criminals.

There is nothing special or unique about a college or university setting that should lead to any student, staff, or faculty becoming anxious over the possibility of encountering a legally-armed student or colleague. Arizona, after all, is a constitutional carry state that doesn’t generally require a concealed carry license in order for legal gun owners to bear arms in self-defense, and I guarantee that any skittish student or staff is already regularly running across lawfully-armed individuals off-campus whether they know it or not.

While violent crime may be somewhat rare on college campuses, they’re not immune to incidents. Last year a former graduate student at the University of Arizona was charged with shooting and killing a professor on campus, and an independent review of the university’s policies and practices conducted after that killing found “systemic issues around the university’s ability to understand and manage threats.” The university isn’t keeping students or faculty safe, but Hobbs is now guaranteeing that those folks won’t be able to protect themselves either.

That murder was the most high profile crime committed on campus in recent months, but the university’s police department reports that in 2021 there were three stalking incidents on campus, as well as nearly two dozen domestic violence incidents. Additionally, eighteen rapes were reported on campus along with eleven aggravated assaults and at least two robberies. Again, that’s not a terribly high crime rate, but why should any of those victims be denied their right to armed self-defense just because Katie Hobbs thinks it will alleviate others’ anxiety?

Hobbs has been on a veto spree this year, killing off dozens of Republican-approved bills including measures that would have allowed concealed carry holders to bring their firearms onto K-12 campuses and a push to bring real gun safety education to schools. Her most recent veto is utterly unsurprising given her fealty to the Democratic party line, but rather than making Arizona’s campuses safer places she’s only keeping students, staff, and faculty at risk… and empowering those cowardly killers and violent predators who will continue to see those places as a target-rich environment for their crimes.