House committee passes bill to ban gun owner databases

Jeremy Duda//January 24, 2013

House committee passes bill to ban gun owner databases

Jeremy Duda//January 24, 2013

House committee passes bill to ban gun owner databasesThe House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would expand the state’s law prohibiting cities from keeping databases of gun-related transactions to include firearm ownership as well.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, the committee’s chairman and the sponsor of the bill, said HB 2326 was largely meant to keep doctors from compiling databases of patients who own firearms, which could be turned over to the federal government. Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said the bill was inspired by President Obama’s recent comments that his Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking patients if they keep guns in their homes.

“This won’t stop them from asking the question, but they can’t collect a database that can be handed over to the government and then have a database that says here’s a list of people who own firearms,” Farnsworth said.

Arizona law already prohibits political subdivisions of the state from compiling databases of sales, purchases or transfers of firearms. Farnsworth said his bill would simply expand that prohibition to protect gun owners.

“This simply is going to expand what we’ve already done in this state saying that the transaction of buying and selling guns, we cannot maintain a database. And now we’re saying if you own a gun, you can’t maintain a database as a political subdivision,” he said.

The committee passed the bill 6-2, with Democratic Reps. Albert Hale and Martin Quezada voting against it. Rep. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, was the only Democrat to join Republicans John Allen, Farnsworth, Doris Goodale, Ethan Orr and Justin Pierce in voting for the measure.

Hale said he was concerned that the bill eliminated a preexisting exemption in the law that allowed databases for transactions involving federally licensed firearms dealers.

“Maybe that’s a database that should continue to be kept … when it involves firearms dealers,” said Hale, D-Window Rock.

Farnsworth said he disagreed. After the hearing, he said he wasn’t aware of any conflicts that the provision may have with federal law.

Liberal activist Leonard Clark spoke in opposition to the bill, which he said would make it harder for cities to protect their residents. In an exchange with Farnsworth that became testy at times, Clark said that in an age of school shootings such as the one that recently rocked Newtown, Conn., and violent video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, cities should have the ability to maintain databases.

Clark compared the situation to automobile ownership records. If he kills someone with his car, Clark said, the government can easily check records to determine who owns the car.

“Preventing our municipalities from protecting themselves in this age of Sandy Hook, when schools are being invaded by these types of things, I think it’s just not the right time,” Clark said. “I think we have an epidemic of violence.”

Farnsworth disputed Clark’s assertion that the bill would violate cities’ sovereignty, noting that cities are simply political subdivisions of the state. He also rejected Clark’s accusation that the bill was meant as a political shot at Obama. Meanwhile, Allen, R-Scottsdale, said he didn’t believe that a database of gun owners would have done anything to prevent the Sandy Hook shooting.