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Senate panel OKs strengthening laws allowing guns in public buildings

A Senate panel voted Thursday to strengthen laws that let people bring weapons into public buildings if there’s not an easy and immediate way to check them.

Dave Kopp, lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said a 2006 law spells at that individuals are permitted to arm themselves. He said that law allows those operating public buildings to tell people their weapons are not welcome only if there are lockers available and convenient.

He said some government agencies claim that having lockers near entrances would just be too costly. Kopp said that puts those who refuse to disarm themselves at risk of being arrested on a charge of misconduct with a weapon. SB 1063 would end that risk.

“The only thing the bill changes is it basically says if you are not providing the required storage that’s been required since 2006, then folks can just walk on in,” Kopp said.

Other bills on gun rights are pending.

Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, wants to allow anyone who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring it into most public buildings, even if lockers are available. HB 2339 would not apply when a building has security guards and metal detectors.

Barton also is pushing a separate measure that could throw a roadblock in the path of police trying to question someone they have stopped about whether they are armed.

Under current law it is a crime for someone to not answer that question truthfully. But all a police officer needs to make the inquiry in the first place is “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been or is about to be committed.

HB 2337 would raise that threshold to “probable cause,” a higher legal standard.

Other gun proposals filed include:

- Allowing faculty at community colleges to carry concealed weapons onto campus (HB 2186);

- Increasing the penalty on those who try to take a gun from someone who is legally carrying it (HB 2338);

- Setting up a “citizens marksmanship program” to train eligible adults (HB 2190);

- Allowing those prohibited from possessing weapons to have firearms which are not currently working (SB 1064).

Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, who sponsored the measure heard Thursday about guns in public buildings, said public entities should not be able to ignore the requirement for lockers at all entrances and then tell people they cannot keep their guns.

But Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said publicly owned stadiums have multiple entrances. Gallardo said it would be impossible to provide sufficient lockers at each doorway.

Kopp, however, said there are already exceptions to laws allowing people to carry guns into public buildings if alcohol is being served. And he said most of the major stadiums have liquor licenses.

Some Democrats are pushing back with their own measures to roll back some of the gun laws previously approved. Their bills include:

- Mandatory background checks before any weapon can be sold (HB 2346);

- Repeal laws allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a state-issued permit (HB 2345);

- Enacting enhanced penalties for weapons violations if the person is intoxicated. (HB 2207).

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