A Senate panel has approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from enforcing stricter rules on firearms ownership than what’s written in state law.
The bill, S1168, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 4-3 vote on Feb. 22. It now heads to the Senate floor via the Rules Committee.
If it passes, cities and counties would lose the authority to create broader requirements than the state on the licensing, registration or ownership of guns or ammunition. Local governments already are banned from enacting ordinances related to the transportation, possession, sale or use of firearms.
Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican, said he sponsored the bill because the Second Amendment right to bear arms should be consistently protected across the state.
“It’s a constitutional issue,” he said. “You can’t have constitutional issues dealing with firearms that differ from one city to the next.”
The bill also prohibits political subdivisions from restricting firearms of citizens with concealed carry permits in local parks.
Arizona law gives citizens the right to openly carry firearms, so having this inconsistency between local governments is inappropriate, Pearce said.
Cities, counties or towns should not preempt the state because they are all political subdivisions of the state, and any power they have is a delegated authority from the state, Pearce said.
“The states are where the power’s at,” he said.
Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero, a Democrat, said the Legislature has done a lot over the past two to three years to take jurisdiction away from local governments.
“Any time that the state Legislature prohibits the rights of chartered cities and towns it’s unacceptable, because cities and towns should have, and the people, should have the right to their own decision-making and destiny,” Romero said.
Romero said that if Pearce said political subdivisions shouldn’t have the authority to regulate firearm laws, then the state shouldn’t either.
“The Republican-controlled legislature is ready to accuse the federal government of controlling the states, but the states are doing the same thing to cities, towns and counties,” she said.
Ken Strobeck, executive director at League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said his organization has not taken an official position on the bill, but anything that preempts city regulations is generally opposed.
“What works in one community doesn’t always work in every community,” Strobeck said.
Strobeck said the league still has to take a serious look at the bill, but they were publicly opposed to the state preemption bill on local governments’ regulation on knives, S1153, that passed in the Senate on Feb. 22.
“(Our job is to) protect local control and local decision-making for what’s best for those local communities,” he said.