State senators voted Tuesday to forever block cities from requiring background checks when people sell weapons at gun shows.
But they balked at opening public buildings to people with guns.
On a 14-16 vote the Senate killed legislation that would have allowed those who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring them in to public buildings. Building operators could maintain that gun-free status only by installing metal detectors and hiring security guards.
Republicans Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix, Frank Pratt of Casa Grande and Bob Worsley of Mesa joined with Democrats to provide the margin for defeat.
Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, the sponsor of SB1243, made no comment as the measure went down to defeat for a third year in a row. That alleviates the need for Gov. Doug Ducey, who has promoted himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment, to have to decide between the rights of gun owners and cost to governments — including the state — if they decide to install metal detectors and hire guards to keep their buildings free of weapons.
On the issue of background checks, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, questioned why lawmakers would want to put in this prohibition.
Federal law already requires such checks when a weapon is sold by a licensed dealer. But Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said that covers only about 60 percent of all gun sales.
“I think we would all agree in this room, regardless of what side you’re on, that we don’t want certain people to be able to buy guns, people who are mentally ill, people who have a criminal record,” he said. “They should not be allowed to buy guns.”
Anyway, Farley said, lawmakers should wait for the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing at the Arizona Supreme Court where the justices heard arguments over whether cities have a legal right to set their own gun laws despite state laws. He said if the court sides with Tucson in that fight, SB 1122 would be unenforceable.
But Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, the sponsor of SB1122, said it would be wrong to see her legislation prohibiting cities and counties from requiring background checks as simply aimed at firearms.
She pointed out the language of the bill is broad enough to also encompass any other transfer of private property. For example, Griffin said, a city would not be able to force someone selling a car to first check with any state or federal database.
Farley, however, said that proves his point that a blanket prohibition is a bad idea.
For example, he said, a city might be having a rash of car thefts.
“And they decide it might be good for the people in their community to require a check to see whether that vehicle was stolen,” Farley explained. “That seems like a reasonable thing a city might want to do.”
Tucson at one point had an ordinance requiring background checks for weapons sold at gun shows at the city’s convention center. Gun show organizers dealt with that by moving out of that facility to a county-run site, where there is no such requirement.
Separately Tuesday, lawmakers also voted to grant immunity from civil lawsuits to business owners for deaths and injuries caused by patrons with guns — but only if they do not post their establishments as “gun-free zones.”
Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, promoted SB1159 by saying there is no reason that business owners who want patrons to be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights should be liable if someone else acts irresponsibly.
Farley, however, had a different scenario in mind.
He pointed out that existing law makes bar owners liable if they serve someone too much alcohol and that person goes out, gets into a vehicle and kills someone else. Farley said this would immunize that same bar owner who overserves someone who pulls out a pistol and starts shooting.
The measure passed anyway by a 16-14 vote, with Brophy McGee being the only Republican to side with Democrats.
Brophy McGee also bolted party lines when the Senate approved SB1344. This measure limits the ability of cities and counties from regulating the ability of employees and contractors to possess firearms, even if these people are on city property.