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Arizona Senate panel OKs bills involving gun, privacy rights

Arizona State Capitol

Arizona State Capitol

Republicans who control an Arizona Senate committee approved four bills Tuesday designed to protect gun and other constitutional rights.

The series of bills address issues that conservatives believe impinge on the rights of citizens, including the collection of computer code in communications that can allow the sender to be identified; the ability of federal law enforcement officials to operate in Arizona; and specifying that any federal law considered an infringement of gun rights is unenforceable.

One bill, Senate Bill 1291, specifically targets two Tucson city ordinances — one that requires gun thefts to be reported and one allowing police to alcohol-test people believed to have negligently discharged a gun.

The bill by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, was drafted to force the repeal of the Tucson ordinances and could result in any employee who enforces the rules losing their job. It also would withhold from the city any money that is handled by the state treasurer and allow outside parties to sue and collect up to $100,000 per violation.

Smith said the bill is the National Rifle Association’s top priority in Arizona.

NRA Southwest Director Dan Reid said the bill adds to a 2000 state law that keeps local officials from enacting laws more stringent that state law.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a version of Smith’s law last year.

Three other bills target federal actions.

Senate Bill 1330 by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, is designed to not allow any current or future federal laws affecting the Second Amendment to go into effect. She said it will be amended to further narrow its scope.

“Basically, the intent of the law is to allow Arizonans to be under Arizona’s own power,” Ward said.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said she agreed with the spirit of the legislation but said she had concerns about a state being able to nullify federal law, just as she disliked the ability of the federal government to push unconstitutional laws on the states.

“I think it’s a fight worth fighting,” she said.

Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, was nearly speechless.

“This bill is just insulting on so many different levels that it is hard to know where to begin,” Bradley said. “I just vote no.”

Senate Bill 1331, also by Ward, bars state or local government officials from helping gather computer tracking data for a federal agency and has similar penalties.

Senate Bill 1384 requires federal officers to get the permission of local sheriffs in most cases before making arrests or conducting searches. Sheriffs could refuse permission for any reason. Border Patrol and immigration agents are exempt.

Federal agents who ignore the law would be subject to arrest.

Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, said the intent of her bill is to ensure maximum cooperation between federal and local authorities. Her proposal requires county attorneys to prosecute federal agents for kidnapping if they make an arrest without checking in with the sheriff.

A similar Burges bill last year died in the Senate Rules Committee because of questions about its constitutionality.

All four bills passed on 4-2 votes Tuesday, with both Democrats on the federalism committee opposed.

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