Lawmaker carrying her gun into Senate

Signs declare office weapons-free zone, but it's unenforced
2011-01-13T00:00:00Z Lawmaker carrying her gun into SenateHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
January 13, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - A new state lawmaker is bringing her concealed gun into the Senate despite signs on the doors making the building a weapons-free zone.

And the president of the Senate doesn't intend to do anything about that.

Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, said she has had a gun for years. And when a new law kicked in last year allowing anyone to have a concealed weapon, she began carrying a .380 Ruger in her purse.

"I believe that my responsibility is to protect myself," she said.

"I'm comfortable carrying," Klein continued. "And I had no intention of creating any concern."

The official policy at the Arizona Senate is weapons must be surrendered. The Senate provides lockers where they can be secured while people are in the building.

Klein noted, however, there are no metal detectors. And there are no spot checks of visitors.

"Anyone can come into the Senate office building," she said. "And frankly if you're somebody that has an intent to harm someone you're not going to stop by the guard and say, 'Here's my weapon.' "

Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who wrote last year's law allowing any adult to carry a concealed weapon, said he is not troubled by Klein's actions.

"The best thing you could do to protect freedom for yourself and others is to have good citizens that are capable of protecting themselves and others," he said. "I would never have a policy that restricts members."

State law prohibits weapons from being carried into public buildings. But the House and Senate are permitted to have their own regulations.

Officially, the Senate is a gun-free zone. But Pearce conceded that its enforcement is pretty much non-existent - for everyone.

"It's kind of a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy right now," he said, with no one challenging visitors to surrender their weapons.

Pearce said he believes some of the people who are coming into the Senate now probably are carrying guns despite the signs on the doors. And he said he doesn't intend to change that.

"There'll be no metal detectors out front while I'm president of the Senate," he said.

Pearce said, though, he is not armed while in the Senate.

Klein said the events of the past weekend back her belief that people being armed is the best protection for the public, saying that someone with a gun could have taken Jared Lee Loughner out before he killed six and wounded 13 others.

Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said the policy in that chamber remains that visitors are supposed to surrender their weapons. Like the Senate, however, compliance at most times is more or less voluntary, with no metal detectors at the doors.

The only exception to that in recent memory was during Monday's State of the State address by the governor when Capitol police officers had hand-held wands and checked the purses and backpacks of those entering the building.

Scarpinato said there is "no policy" regarding lawmakers having weapons. He said, though, that Adams does not carry a gun.

This isn't the first time the issue has come up, at least in the Senate. Karen Johnson, who has since retired, admitted in 2007 she had a .22-caliber eight-shot revolver in her purse.

Tim Bee, then Senate president, conceded the disclosure surprised him. But he refused to stop the practice.

"We have members who stay late at night," Bee said, including women. "Obviously they feel that carrying their gun with them makes them feel safe."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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