Arizona’s Brewer Vetoes Bill Opening Buildings to Guns

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns in libraries, city halls and other public buildings in Arizona.

Brewer said she was concerned about the costs for local governments, which would have been required to equip libraries, city halls and other buildings with metal detectors security officers and gun lockers in order to prohibit firearms.

“They would face this choice: Either spend untold dollars in order to provide their officials and employees the same level of protection that we have at the Arizona state Capitol complex, or accept weapons on the premises,” Brewer said yesterday in a veto letter. “The result would be extensive confusion regarding where guns are permitted or not permitted.”

The measure passed the House March 6 and the Senate on April 12. Last year, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, was shot in the head during a constituent event in Tucson. Brewer made her decision amid increased scrutiny of gun laws following the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.

Proponents of the bill said allowing guns would make public buildings safer.

“Currently if there is a sign that says ‘no guns,’ the law-abiding people disarm and the criminal looks at that sign and says ‘Wow, disarmed-victim zone,’” Charles Heller, a co-founder of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said by telephone last week. The 6,500-member group pushed for the law.

Local Cost

Some local governments opposed the bill, saying that measures it required to keep guns out of public buildings would cost millions of dollars. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, said adding such security would take $11.3 million for equipment and $19.5 million in continuing expenses, according to a legislative analysis.

Brewer, a 67-year-old Republican who was backed by the National Rifle Association with an A+ rating in 2010, quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in her veto letter on the legitimacy of forbidding guns in “‘sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.’”

“The decision to permit or prohibit guns in these extremely sensitive locations -- whether a city council chamber or branch office staffed with state workers -- should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law enforcement officials and local government leaders,” she said in the letter.

Praising Decision

Brewer’s veto drew praise from Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a Democrat who was wounded years earlier in a shooting at a building where the governing board met. Brewer was serving on the board with Wilcox at the time.

“I congratulate Governor Brewer on her decision,” Wilcox said in a statement. “I’m grateful that common sense prevailed over the ideological views of a few. Government employees will sleep better tonight.”

Brewer, who described herself as a “strong proponent of the Second Amendment” in her letter, has signed several measures expanding gun rights, including allowing them in bars and letting residents carry concealed firearms without a permit. Last month, she approved an NRA-supported bill to let hunters use silencing devices on their weapons.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda J. Crawford in Phoenix at acrawford24@bloomberg.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at