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Copyright 2014 The Arizona Daily Star
PHOENIX -- Saying Arizonans have "God-given rights to defend themselves," the state House voted Wednesday to let anyone bring a concealed weapon into many public buildings, as long as he or she has a permit.
Existing laws say that states, cities, counties and other levels of government can declare their buildings to be off-limits to weapons. The only existing requirement is that they provide gun storage lockers.
HB 2339, approved on a 34-22 vote and sent to the Senate, says anyone who has gone through the state-required training and background check to have what's called a CCW permit can ignore the "no guns" signs, whether or not there are lockers available.
The measure does allow governments to maintain their weapons- free zones. But they would have to put metal detectors and armed guards at each public entrance in addition to the lockers.
In separate action, however, the Senate killed a similar measure that would have allowed anyone -- CCW permit or not -- to ignore a public building's "no guns'' sign if lockers are not immediately available at each entrance. SB 1083 died on a 14-14 tie vote.
But the House agreed to a third measure to impose a $5,000 civil penalty for any community -- or even government official -- who knowingly or willfully enacts or enforces any gun regulation that goes beyond what the Legislature has decided is permissible. And it says that those accused of these knowing or willful violations cannot use public money to defend themselves.
HB 2517, which now goes to the Senate, goes beyond that, allowing any individual or organization whose membership might be affected by a local gun rule to go to court, seek to have the regulation voided and be awarded up to $100,000 in legal fees.
Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said she believes the legislation is aimed at her hometown. Tucson has enacted requirements for gun owners to report lost weapons and allows police to request a breath sample from someone who has negligently discharged a firearm and appears intoxicated.
Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, said state pre-emption of local gun regulations is necessary for uniformity. Otherwise, he said, gun owners who live in Marana could inadvertently find themselves in legal trouble while carrying their weapons into Tucson. "That kind of chaos is unacceptable," Orr said.
To get the measure approved, Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, had to include some specific exemptions.
For example, CCW permit holders could not bring their weapons into public schools, community colleges or universities. Also off limits would be any public event with a liquor license, a provision designed to keep them out of large sports arenas; existing law already allows permit holders to bring their guns into bars.