Carry bills pass AZ House, but campus carry bill delayed

(AP Photo/Tae-Gyun Kim)

A pair of bills approved by the Arizona House on Thursday wouldn’t change who can lawfully bear arms in self-defense, but they would expand the number of places where legal gun owners can carry.

On a party-line vote of 31-28, House lawmakers signed off on a bill that would allow those with a concealed carry license to carry inside of unsecured government buildings across the state, along with a measure that would give legal gun owners the ability to bring their guns with them onto the grounds (but not the buildings) of K-12 schools.

Democrats called the bill a recipe for disaster.

“There’s a reason why our schools are drug-free and gun-free — and that’s to keep the students safe,” Tucson Democratic Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley said. “Having loaded guns even in a glove compartment of a car is a dangerous situation for any K-12 school campus.”

She and other Democrats noted that students who are bullied or considering suicide could be tempted to use weapons if they know they are in a nearby car. Until several years ago, even unloaded guns were not allowed in cars on a school campus.

“I’ve listened to plenty of parents who are — their life is forever in torment because the means that was available was a firearm,” Tempe Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein said.

I have questions, starting with how would a student know that a gun would be stored in any given vehicle on school grounds?

The intention of the bill, according to Republican lawmakers, isn’t necessarily to give school staff the ability to lawfully store their guns in their vehicle on school grounds, but to allow parents who are concealed carry holders to drop off and pick up their kids without having to first stop and unload their firearm. It’s actually a pretty minor bill, though it would be a definite improvement over the status quo.

While the House approved both of these measures on Thursday, they left a couple of other important 2A bills on the table for a future floor debate and vote.

The House bill allowing concealed weapons to be carried on college and university campuses is another longstanding goal of Republicans that has failed to be enacted in past years. It could come up for debates and votes at any time, and a similar bill in the Senate also is awaiting floor action.

GOP Sen Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill.

“I am a believer that guns save lives, and if a student has a concealed weapons permit than he or she should be able to carry on campus and thus make the campus safer,” Rogers said at a Jan. 20 committee hearing.

There are several other pro-gun bills still in committee, though one measure will soon be heading to the House floor after winning approval in the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday. HB 2166 would make purchasing a firearm a little more affordable by exempting guns from all state and local sales taxes.

“It’s my view that firearms should not be out of reach of anyone based on income,’’ Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, told colleagues. “It should be as affordable as possible.’’

Also exempt from taxes would be the sale of safety accessories, ranging from gun safes or cases to certain interlocks to prevent a weapon from being fired unless first deactivated by someone who is supposed to have access.

Individual affordability aside, Kaiser said what his bill also would do is end the financial disadvantage of firearms dealers.

“As you know, we have the private sale option in Arizona, which means you can go to a gun show, for example, and buy a private weapon from a private citizen,’’ he said. “That’s something I will always protect.’’

But that private seller, Kaiser said, is not required to charge state or local sales taxes. All totaled, he said, those levies can add up to 10% or more to the out-the-door price.

“This would actually encourage more folks to go to gun stores,’’ he said. “They can support our local businesses that sell firearms and firearms safety equipment.’’

All in all, it looks like this is shaping up to be a very productive session of the Arizona legislature when it comes to solid pro-Second Amendment bills. I’m a little concerned about the prospects of passage for campus carry, but with a major Second Amendment rally scheduled for this weekend on the grounds of the state capitol building, legislators will soon get a chance to see and hear from thousands of gun owners who’ll be lobbying for the passage of that bill and the other pieces of legislation designed to strengthen and secure our right to keep and bear arms.