as a strong libertarian and political activist who had sued the state
over more issues than he could remember, Ernest Hancock was never much
bothered that his wife, Donna, was always told to check her gun or leave
it in the car before paying her taxes at the Arizona Revenue
State law allows residents to carry concealed weapons,
and building operators have the right to keep them out -- a violation
of constitutional rights, in Mr. Hancock's opinion. But it was not
enough of an inconvenience to warrant another suit, he said.
all changed last month, after Mrs. Hancock went to the department again,
only to have security guards tell her that she now had to check her gun
in a storage locker at the State Capitol, half a mile away.
Not a chance, said her husband, who then tested the system for himself and, like his wife, was turned away.
to form, Mr. Hancock drew up a complaint against the state, challenging
all its restrictions on gun ownership. He headed straight for State
Supreme Court, where the inconvenience this week became Case No.
CV-02-0161-SA, the SA standing for special action.
Hancock's suit, in which he is representing himself, is but the latest
example of passionate responses to efforts by states to strike a balance
between residents' rights to carry concealed weapons and new concerns
over public safety since Sept. 11.
The debate is playing out on
two fronts in Utah, one of 44 states that allow concealed weapons. The
University of Utah in Salt Lake City is fighting Utah in court over
whether guns should be carried on campus. In southern Utah, a group of
judges said they would defy a new law that requires all state
courthouses to provide storage lockers for guns. The judges say the new
law would weaken prohibitions against carrying any weapons into a
In Ohio, one of the six states that forbid concealed
weapons, two groups are suing to have the prohibition declared
unconstitutional. In New Mexico, former Mayor Jim Baca of Albuquerque
has sued the state to overturn a law that lets residents carry concealed
In Michigan, the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun
Owners has sued Ferndale, contending that a new ban on carrying weapons
into City Hall and other municipal offices violates a state law that
prohibits guns in schools, churches and other public places with no
mention of municipal buildings.
In Illinois, which bans concealed
weapons, a group from Oak Brook is paying legal costs for a man with
cerebral palsy who is suing Chicago, arguing that its 1983 prohibition
against carrying weapons violates the Illinois and United States
Constitutions and denies him the ability to protect himself.
J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of
New York at Cortland and the author of a 1995 book, ''The Politics of
Gun Control,'' said that efforts to expand the right to carry a gun had
evolved from a ''steady libertarian antigovernment attitude'' in the
1980's and that they had been bolstered by Attorney General John
Ashcroft's views that the Second Amendment protects an individual's
right to gun ownership.
But Professor Spitzer wondered how many
additional challenges might arise now that Americans have grown more
concerned about public safety.
''Pro-gun groups appealed for
support on an antigovernment theme, but that theme is all but dead after
Sept. 11,'' he said. ''Polls are showing a sharp increase in America's
trust of government to do the right things.''