A Scottsdale lawmaker joined his GOP colleagues in a move to let more people carry guns into government buildings amid an effort to block local law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws.
On a party-line vote, members of the House Committee on Government and Elections approved legislation that says if someone has a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon, they would be free to ignore “no guns’’ signs posted on the door.
The only way cities and counties could actually enforce a gun-free zone would be to install metal detectors and hire people to staff the equipment.
Rep. John Kavanagh said that makes sense “Placing a sticker that says ‘no weapons allowed’ with a little red hash, that stops law-abiding citizens from bringing weapons into government buildings."
“It doesn’t stop criminals, potentially dangerous criminals,’’ Kavanagh continued. “So what you do is you create gun-free zones where the honest people are disarmed and the criminals can go in and have an advantage.’’
HB 2551 does not contain any funds for local governments to buy and staff the equipment.
But supporters said the simple answer is let gun owners bring their weapons into state buildings or provide protection if they have to leave their guns in their vehicles or check them at the door.
Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, said the legislation is built on a false narrative.
“This idea that there’s a good guy with a gun that’s going to be able to do something is totally not borne out by facts,’’ she said.
Butler cited a shooting incident at a Walmart, where “so many people pulled out guns that law enforcement wasn’t sure who the shooter was.’’
The legislation contains exceptions where possession of a weapon would remain a crime. That includes bars and restaurants with liquor licenses, courts, schools, community colleges, universities and public transit. Kavanagh said the owners of private businesses retain the right to demand that patrons disarm themselves.
Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, noted that there have been threats made against Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, following his vote earlier this week against a resolution condemning the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Yet there are no metal detectors at the entrance to the Senate building, meaning anyone could bring a gun into the building.
While Arizona law allows virtually any adult to carry a concealed weapon, HB 2551 applies only to those who have concealed-carry permits issued by the state.
The other measure, HB 2111, is designed to protect what Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, said is a threat of federal infringement on the gun rights of Arizonans.
“If they try to take AR-15s from law-abiding citizens, that is something that is not going to be tolerated,’’ he said.
He said it’s no different than the fact that Arizona legalized marijuana possession and won’t be arresting and prosecuting people even though that remains a crime under federal law.
Salman balked at that comparison.
“I don’t know anyone who has died from smoking pot,’’ she said. “I don’t think in a civilized society we should have military-grade weapons.’’
Kavanagh, however, pointed out that the AR-15 is no different than other legal rifles. Both bills need action by the full House.