Want a sawed-off shotgun or a silencer for your pistol?
State senators voted Monday to let you have them – at least as far as Arizona law is concerned.
In a surprise move, Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, tacked an amendment onto a relatively noncontroversial measure dealing with restoration of civil rights to repeal various existing bans on what kind of weapons cannot be carried in the state.
Her amendment to SB1460 legalizes devices “made or adapted to muzzle the report of a firearm.” Also gone would be prohibitions against any rifle or shotgun with an overall length of 26 inches, with no new minimum in its place.
Both can be legally possessed under federal law. But buyers must go through a more-intensive screening than the one required to purchase just any weapon.
And while she was at it, Ward got senators to provide preliminary approval to “nunchucks,” essentially two or more sticks, clubs, bars or rods connected together to be used as a weapon.
Ward’s measure to allow what had been illegal was not absolute. She left untouched the ban on machine guns and Molotov cocktails, essentially a form of a firebomb.
Separately, the Senate gave preliminary approval to legislation to punish any community or public employee who enacts or enforces guns laws found in conflict with state statute.
There already are laws that preempt local gun regulations. But Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said SB1291 is necessary because Tucson has ignored that with two ordinances, one that lets police request a breath sample from someone who has negligently discharged a firearm and appears intoxicated, and one that requires people to report the loss or theft of a gun.
And the House approved HB2505 which would make it a felony for someone other than a police officer to take away an individual’s legally possessed firearm. Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said right now taking someone’s gun from his or her hands probably is just simple theft and carries a much lesser penalty.
All three votes came the same day as a new poll found that Arizonans appear less interested in new regulations of weapons.
Pollster Earl de Berge of the Behavior Research Center found just 33 percent of those asked want stricter laws on the sale of firearms. That compares with 48 percent just two years ago.
What has occurred, de Berge said, is most folks seem to like the laws just the way they are. The survey of 701 adult heads of household conducted last month, including 460 registered voters, finds 48 percent think the current level of control is just fine, up 10 points from the 2013 poll.
There was virtually no change among those who want fewer regulations.
One thing that’s changed, de Berge said, is that it’s now four years since Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner while the newly reelected congresswoman was meeting with constituents in the parking lot of a Tucson grocery store. But de Berge said it’s more likely that Arizonans are affected by more recent headlines and names like Charlie Hebdo.
“There’s been a lot of stuff that’s happened in between, not the least of which is growing concern in America about Islamic terrorists extremists presence in our midst,” he said, not only in France where they massacred staffers of the satire magazine but perhaps closer to home.
“The other part of it goes to Ferguson and those kinds of issues where people are beginning to say, `Gee, maybe I do need to be in the role of personal self defense,” de Berge continued, referring to the disturbances that followed the police shooting of an unarmed civilian last year in Missouri.
The survey has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
At the Senate, SB1460 as introduced would allow those who have been convicted of a felony but have had their civil rights restored to once again possess firearms. Ward trotted out the provisions on silencers, sawed-off shotguns and nunchucks during Monday’s floor debate.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, opposed the addition. He said that “seems to me a pretty big move to be doing as an amendment to a bill that otherwise I think I could find inoffensive.” He said a change like that should go through committee hearings.
“I think law enforcement might have something to say about that because silencers and sawed-off shotguns tend to be used against them,” he said.
Ward said nothing and her amendment was given preliminary approval on a voice vote.
That, however, may not be the end of it. Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, a former police officer, said there likely will be a move to strip out the new language when the bill goes to the House following a Senate roll-call vote.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have dealt with silencers.
Two years ago the Legislature gave permission for hunters who get the necessary federal permission to put silencers on their weapons. Proponents said silencers mean less disturbance for neighbors and less recoil, meaning more accuracy.