By Michelle Chance
The Maricopa City Council on Tuesday voted to forward a proposal that will allow concealed carry weapon permit holders to bring firearms into government buildings as an agenda item to vote on in a future meeting.
The council’s support was partially influenced by the nine citizens who spoke in front of the council during a policy meeting at City Hall. All speakers voiced approval of the proposed policy change.
Currently, no person, whether a permit holder or not, is allowed to bring guns into city buildings.
Councilmember Bridger Kimball clarified the discussion was about allowing CCW permit holders to carry in municipal buildings, not about “constitutional” carry.
Despite the overall support displayed at the meeting, councilmember Henry Wade Jr. expressed skepticism on the proposed policy.
“The fact that we had no one come forward to argue against this effort is interesting and somewhat concerning,” Wade said, adding, “I don’t know whether or not people are actually ambivalent to the issue, or feel like their voices aren’t going to be heard in the first place, but the fact is the majority of the people who have approached us have said that they were in favor of allowing CCW permit holders to bring firearms into government buildings.”
Ultimately, Wade said because majority rules in a democracy he would vote on the issue “based on people who have talked to me” and his conscience.
Vice Mayor Marvin Brown also remarked on the lack of opposition to the measure during the meeting.
“I suspect many of the people who oppose this didn’t show up because they would feel overwhelmed by your passion and your numbers,” Brown said to supporters of the policy change.
Brown later expressed concern regarding a hypothetical active shooter situation in which the police department might have trouble discerning between the criminals and the citizens who have guns during such an incident.
In that situation, Brown said of CCW permit holders, “We are all going to be subjected to being killed.”
Overall, Brown said, “If we could overcome some issues, I’d be willing to support this on the agenda.”
Meanwhile, Councilmember Nancy Smith said she had “peace of mind” after researching the statistics on lowered gun crime rates after CCW permit holders were allowed to bring firearms onto government property in other cities. According to the Arizona Department of Safety website, there are 9,978 CCW permit holders in Pinal County.
However, the results of an “unscientific” survey recently taken of government employees produced mixed reactions, Smith said.
As the proposal was outlined during the meeting, government employees and volunteers could not carry firearms with a permit on to government property, even though members of the public who are CCW permit holders could.
Mayor Christian Price agreed with Smith, saying, “We have to treat our employees as citizens.”
Price added he supported the exception to the policy in which government employees and volunteers should be allowed to carry as well, so long as they have a CCW permit.
Councilmember Peggy Chapados suggested in shared facilities like the courthouse, where county employees are banned from carrying concealed weapons, that city employees be held to that prohibition as well.
According to reports in January by the Maricopa Police Department, serious crime, including gun crime, have been reduced. Vehicle theft is the highest reoccurring crime issue in the city.
However, incidents with gun violence still occur. Two people were killed last week in a homicide-suicide domestic dispute that ended after a five-hour standoff in a Maricopa subdivision.
Despite incidents of gun violence, the public and city leaders at the meeting supported the idea of allowing firearms into government buildings like City Hall and Copper Sky Recreational Center.
Every councilmember, including the mayor and vice mayor, agreed to forward the proposal as an agenda item with some exceptions regarding government staff also being allowed to carry firearms with a permit. The date of the meeting on which the issue will be voted upon has yet to be announced.
The action at a future council meeting would be to modify city code.
City Manager Gregory Rose said the issue of guns left unattended in bags at Copper Sky or other facilities also needs to be addressed.