Sweeping legislation that would dramatically loosen the state’s already liberal gun laws narrowly passed the House Judiciary Committee this morning.
The committee chairman, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that one of his requirements before he would hear the bill in committee was that more work be done to ensure the bill does not apply to private property.
However, Farnsworth heard the bill even though no such changes or amendments had been made to the bill prior to today’s hearing in order to allow those changes to be made in the future. This week marks the last week House committees will meet. Supporters of the bill said they would be open to making amendments to the bill before it came to the floor of the House.
The measure includes provisions to allow guns on school grounds so long as they remain in cars; to allow guns at public events as long as alcohol isn’t being served; to require public establishments that ban firearms to provide secure storage lockers for gun owners; and to allow people to sue for damages if their rights pertaining to owning or carrying a gun have been violated.
The overall sentiment is to make sure that, in public areas, either everyone is allowed to have a firearm or no one is.
The pledge to address Farnsworth’s concerns reassured some Republican members of the committee, including Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Carefree, who voted in favor of the bill. But Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa, was still skeptical.
“I have confidence in your ability to work out the private property issues,” he told Farnsworth, “but, as the bill stands, I have too many concerns.”
Ash was the sole Republican to oppose the bill.
Democrats, meanwhile, were united in their opposition. Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, said that he disagreed with the idea that property owners must take action in order to prevent people from carrying guns onto their property.
“What’s implied here is that gun rights trump property rights,” he said. “We’re going way too far. We have crossed the line.”
Farnsworth countered Chabin’s by arguing that since the second amendment upholds individuals’ gun rights, the onus should be on property owners to actively prohibit them by posting signs.
And since the Second Amendment says the government cannot take those rights away, Farnsworth said he considered it unconstitutional that firearms would not be allowed in public buildings.
“The very institution that is prohibited from infringing on that right is the very institution that has infringed on that right,” he said. “The government buildings should not be able to restrict our ability to carry a gun. But they do.”
Democrats Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, and Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, also voted against the bill. The final tally was 5-4.