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Posted: 5/15/2002 5:29:52 PM EST
By Charles Kelly
The Arizona Republic
May 15, 2002

It started because businessman Ernest Hancock wanted a convenient place to park his pistol while he paid his sales taxes at the Department of Revenue.

Hancock, the owner of a Phoenix restaurant called Pizza Belly and a well-known Libertarian, asked the department to check his gun on site, rather than nearly a third of a mile away with the Capitol Police. He was refused.

Now Hancock, in a special action filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court, is asking for a ruling that the state can't tell him whether he can carry a gun on public property.

"Arizona state government was never given any authority to restrict in any way the right to bear arms," Hancock said.

He argues that the state Constitution and legislation leading up to it say the state's only role is to protect individual rights, including gun rights.

Hancock's action stems from, but goes beyond, a campaign by Valley gun activists to get operators of public buildings, including the Department of Revenue, to set "reasonable" gun-checking policies in line with a law passed two years ago. If successful, it would iron out inconsistencies in those policies, which vary widely.

If you're in downtown Phoenix, you can use one of several locations with gun lockers, including the Municipal Court at 300 W. Washington St. and the Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building at 251 W. Washington St. Phoenix city libraries also have gun lockers, and operators of outlying public buildings can choose to check guns or let visitors carry them in.

In Tempe, you must check your gun at the Tempe Police headquarters downtown, or call for a police officer to take charge of it if you're at an outlying public building such as a library. The officer will return it to that location when you are ready to pick it up.

The police will hold weapons in Scottsdale, unless you are visiting a public building where a security guard can take charge of your weapon. Mesa provides gun lockers in buildings with public notices prohibiting guns, and lets gun carriers freely use unposted buildings. In Chandler, police would take custody of a gun if one needed to be checked, but that situation hasn't arisen, City Attorney Dennis O'Neill said.

Glendale has installed gun lockers at about 15 sites following pressure by gun activists. They complained about a previous policy, which let a gun-toter summon a police officer to take custody of a gun, but then forced him or her to go to a police station to pick it up.

Tim Weaver, 38, a Glendale market research analyst, said he has checked his gun at public buildings in Glendale and at the main Phoenix library. Despite the law the Legislature passed in 2000 to simplify things by taking away from cities and counties the ability to write gun laws, he says citizens still are hassled by all the varied gun-checking policies.

"I think they're asinine," Weaver said. "The whole idea . . . was to end this patchwork quilt of policies and ordinances."

Just as the policies differ, so do opinions about them. Hancock thinks the Revenue Department's requirement that he take a long hike to check his gun is unreasonable.

But William Inman, general counsel for the department, said its policy is set by the state Department of Administration and satisfies the law.

"You can question the wisdom of having to walk to the Capitol building," he said, "but we are providing a method for checking weapons."
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