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‘Katrina’ gun measure might go to ballot

The sponsor of a vetoed Senate bill to prevent state government from seizing citizens’ firearms and ammunition during a declared emergency says the measure might be taken to the people through legislative referendum.
In a somewhat expected move, the Senate on April 26 staged an override vote on S1425, but fell one vote short of the required two-thirds to erase Governor Napolitano’s veto of the measure.
The legislation, dubbed “The Katrina Bill,” would have prohibited the governor or any state official from restricting the lawful possession or use of firearms, ammunition or their components during a proclaimed emergency.
The catalyst for NRA-backed bill sponsored by Sen. Dean Martin, R-6, was the police seizure of firearms in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“We saw footage of an elderly woman with a handgun to protect herself from looters who was wrestled to the ground by law enforcement officers and disarmed,” Sen. Ron Gould, R-3, said during the override vote. “This is America. This is not a police state. The governor by her veto is trying to take authority over the Second Amendment.”
Ms. Napolitano wrote in her April 17 veto message, “I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment… but [the bill] goes too far. It addresses a problem that does not and never existed in Arizona.”
Mr. Martin and Senate President Ken Bennett say they will consider a “strike-everything” amendment to another bill to place the gun measure as a legislative referendum on the general election ballot.
“Let the people override the veto,” said Mr. Martin, who hinted the day after Ms. Napolitano’s veto that the override, which failed 19-10, might be attempted.
Rep. Steve Tully, R-11, called for an override in the House, but withdrew his motion when it became apparent Senate Republicans could not get 20 votes, after keeping the vote open for nearly 30 minutes. The House had passed the bill 45-12, with seven Democrats supporting the bill.
Mr. Martin said the majority decided to try the override because all 30 senators were present on the floor at the time, and Republicans were counting on Democrats who originally supported the bill to also support an override.
The last time the Legislature successfully overrode an executive veto was 1983, when then-Governor Bruce Babbitt vetoed bills establishing new congressional and legislative districts in a December special session.
In 2003, the House voted 40-19 to override Ms. Napolitano’s veto of a bill that would have given precinct committee members the sole authority to fill legislative vacancies, but the Senate failed to override on a vote of 14-15.
Rules of procedure
This week’s override attempt featured an interesting set of circumstances, including the Senate’s rules of procedure.
The override vote was not on the Senate calendar, but it was apparent that something was in the wind during routine business as senators and staff huddled at the dais with Mr. Bennett. Finally, Majority Leader Tim Bee called for the override vote, which many senators later said caught them by surprise.
Some Democrats, who were yes votes in the 25-3 passage of the bill March 6, had left the floor, prompting Mr. Martin to call a point of order because Senate rules require members to vote if they are on the floor when such a motion is made.
In a bit of comic relief, Mr. Martin called for “instant replay” of the video that records all Senate action to see who was on the floor when the override motion was made.
“Call in the line judge,” quipped Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-14, referring to a football referee.
Mr. Bennett said he could not conclude who was and who wasn’t on the floor at the time and overruled the point of order.
Shortly after, Sens. Paula Aboud, D-28 and Rebecca Rios, D-23, returned to the floor and voted no on the override. Democrat Leader Linda Aguirre, who was absent when the bill passed the Senate, did not return to the floor.
Five of seven Democrats who originally voted for the bill decided not to go against Governor Napolitano’s veto. They were Ms. Aboud, Ms. Rios, and Sens. Robert Cannell, D-24, Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27, and Ken Cheuvront, D-15. Then-Sen. Harry Mitchell also voted for the bill, but his replacement, Sen. Edward Ableser, D-17, voted no on the override.
In his point of order, Mr. Martin singled out Ms. Rios as having left the floor after the override motion was made.
“I came up to the office,” she said. “I was watching on the TV and I went down to vote no before it was over.”
Ms. Rios said she reconsidered her original support of the bill and decided the state has to “keep control” in a state of emergency. Her vote against the override will not be an issue in her re-election campaign, she said.
Sen. Marcia Arzberger, D-25, was the only Democrat who stuck to her guns and voted to override the governor, although reluctantly.
“It is uncomfortable for me,” she said.
In pushing the override, Mr. Martin said, “I watched in horror the news and I saw the chief of police of New Orleans say on my TV, ‘We’re going to collect all the guns — all of them.’”
Sen. Robert Cannell, D-24, responded, “As I recall, in New Orleans people were taking potshots and firefighters and policemen, and somebody has to take control in that situation, and I don’t like to tie the hands of our authorities if it comes to that.”
He said Arizona has strong gun laws, and the NRA should stay out of the state.
But Sen. Chuck Gray, R-19, a former policeman, said, “The NRA is welcome in this state anytime they want.”
He said Ms. Napolitano hid the veto of the firearms measure by including it a series of eight vetoes in one day, including the immigrant trespassing bill, which, Mr. Gray said, got all the publicity.
Sen. Barbara Leff, R-11, said “terrified” residents in border communities, where Ms. Napolitano has declared an emergency, are armed out of fear of illegal immigrants and could have their firearms taken away.
At the end of the debate, Sen. Albert Hale, D-2, gave an impassioned speech about Native American history, guns and rancorous statements that have been made on the Senate floor this session.
Ms. Aboud followed with remarks condemning senators who make statements “with the intent to hurt people.”

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