A Republican proposal barring enforcement of any federal laws affecting semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines appears dead after it was pulled from consideration in the Arizona Senate over constitutional questions, the proposal’s author said Monday.
Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City said Senate lawyers believed her bill was unconstitutional because federal law trumps state law. She said it was pulled after she realized all the Democrats and even some fellow Republicans on the Rules Committee would not vote for it.
Ward said thinks the bill won’t be revived, although that’s not a certainty.
“Which is disappointing, because I do want to send a message to the federal government not to step on Arizona and our right to bear arms,” Ward told The Associated Press. “There’s other legislation out there, so I’m hopeful that some of the rest will be able to make it through.”
Ward’s bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee on a party-line vote last week and would normally been on the Rules Committee agenda Monday for a routine review before being passed on to the full Senate for consideration.
“Why they even wasted committee time hearing a bill that’s unconstitutional is ridiculous,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat. “There’s so many issues facing the state of Arizona, and when you have silly bills like that it just gets in the way of some of the priorities.”
Ward acknowledged that she knew the bill raised constitutional questions.
“But I also thought that it was very important to send that message that the Second Amendment is very important,” she said. “On the other side, I don’t want to see Arizona get into a lot of lawsuits and have to fight for something that we just already have as one of our rights.”
Ward’s bill, a companion measure in the House of Representatives and several other gun-related bills introduced since the session began Jan. 14 were prompted by President Barack Obama’s push to reinstate an assault weapons ban and ban high-capacity magazines in the wake of December’s school shooting in Connecticut.
The House version hasn’t been set for a committee hearing. Opponents of more federal gun control have introduced nearly identical bills to Ward’s in other states, including Wyoming.
A series of gun-related executive orders Obama issued Jan. 16 mainly addressed health care rules, gun tracing, background checks and school safety. Obama’s proposals that would outlaw new assault rifle sales and limit magazine size require congressional action.
The Arizona bill was co-sponsored by state Sen. Don Shooter, four other senators and several members of the House of Representatives. It also would make any federal official trying to enforce such laws guilty of a felony and allows the state Attorney General to defend anyone prosecuted for violating federal gun laws if the gun was made in Arizona, among other provisions.
Shooter said he still supports the bill and believes it is constitutional.
“If Thomas Jefferson were here today, he’d be on my side, whether we got it out of Rules or not, because he had his defeats too,” Shooter told the AP. “Jefferson would be standing by me and Kelli Ward.”