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Arizona Senate panel approves bills to allow guns in school parking lots, government buildings

A Senate panel voted Thursday to allow more people to carry guns into more places.

On a party-line vote, with Republicans in the majority, the Judiciary Committee approved permitting loaded weapons on school campuses as long as they remain in a vehicle.

Backers of HB 2414 say that it's designed to ensure that parents driving on to school grounds to pick up their kids don't have to first stop and unload their weapons. Michael Infanzon, lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League said most accidents occur when people load and unload their weapons.

That carried no weight with Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale).

“If you can't keep your gun from discharging by doing something as simple as loading and unloading it, you shouldn't be carrying a gun,” he said. “And the last place you should be carrying a gun on a school campus.”

But the measure, which already has been approved by the House, involves more than just a parent driving into the parking lot. As worded, it also permits adults to stash their weapons in cars parked on campuses provided the vehicle is locked and the weapon is out of sight.

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Separately, and by the same 5-3 party-line vote, the committee said anyone with a state permit to carry a concealed weapon can bring it into any government building and ignore any “no firearms” signs on the door.
HB 2316 has are built-in exceptions for places like schools and courts.

It would allow cities, counties and state agencies to keep guns out — but only if each and every door had a metal detector and a security guard to ensure that no one is armed. And even then, the buildings also would have to provide lockers for people to store their weapons.

Todd Madeksza, lobbyist for Coconino County, said there are places that guns really don't belong, ranging from the treasurer's office to the administrative building where the county supervisors meet. And he said the option of keeping them gun-free zones with equipment and staffing is not an answer, estimating it would take about $2 million to purchase the necessary equipment to cover all doors.

And that, said Madeksza assumes that the county could recruit the people to staff each of them.

“We are having trouble right now even recruiting sheriff's deputies,” he told lawmakers.

But Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), who crafted the measure, said it's foolish to assume that, absent some screening, that people honor what are supposed to be gun-free buildings.

“A 6-by-6 sign on the front door that says ‘no weapons’ is half effective,” he said.

“It certainly stops people who are law-abiding from bringing their weapons in,” Kavanagh said. “But the people who are now law-abiding bring their weapons in, creating a situation where you have good people unarmed and bad people armed.”

The common theme of both is the question of the balance of the First Second Amendment right of people to carry a weapon in self defense versus the risks to others.

That was underlined by Lauren Snyder of the Arizona Libertarian Party who testified in favor of both measures, telling lawmakers about her experience as a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence who now carries a gun.
“I refuse to be a victim again,” she said.

Lawmakers agreed years ago to allow guns in vehicles on campus provided they are not loaded.

Daniel Reid, western regional director of the National Rifle Association, said all HB 2414 does is remove that condition “so that parents who are going to pick up, drop off their kids do not have to deviate from their route.”
But legal questions remain.

One of the most significant is the Gun-Free School Zones Act, approved by Congress in 1990. It prohibits unauthorized individuals from having a loaded or unsecured firearm within in school zone and non-private property within 1,000 feet of them.
Reid, however, pointed to an exception which if the person with the weapon is “licensed to do so by the state in which the school zone is located” and if law enforcement authorities “verify that the individual is qualified under the law to receive the license.”

Only thing is, HB 2414 would grant that right to have that loaded weapon to everyone, not just those who have a state-issued concealed-carry permit. That could subject the proposal to legal challenges — and the unlicensed individuals who bring their guns onto campuses to federal charges.

Cheryl Todd said that as as wife, a mother and a grandmother she wants that ability to bring a loaded weapon onto campus.

“It impacts me every single day when I go and pick up my granddaughter from school,” said Todd who is the Arizona coordinator for the DC Project, an organization of women that advocates for gun rights. She said under current law she is “needlessly left defenseless due to a wrong-headed law.”

“The fact that I am left defenseless every day at the same time and the same location, these are the kinds of patterns that predators look for,” Todd said.

She had similar arguments in favor of HB 2316.

“A woman with small female children conducting business in any public building or public event where predators know that I will be left needlessly defenseless due to wrong-headed laws is to give predators every conceivable advantage to endanger me and my family,” Todd told lawmakers.

Dana Allmond, testifying on behalf of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, had a different take, saying it would allow weapons into places like events in public spaces for children, libraries and community centers. Nor was she persuaded by the fact that this exception to the ban on guns in public facilities would apply only to those with a CCW permit, saying it is “very easy” for anyone 21 and older to get one.

In the end, lawmakers voted according to their beliefs about whether more people with guns makes Arizona a safer place.

“Who's going to stop a bad guy?” asked Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City). “Hopefully, a good guy with a gun.”

And Borrelli cited the war in Ukraine to make his point.

“What we're witnessing right now on the world stage is a great example of making sure that the citizenry has access to weapons to defend themselves,” he said.

Quezada, however, said the numbers don't support the “good guy with a gun” philosophy.

“In 2018, for every justifiable homicide with a gun, there were 34 gun homicides,” he said. “There were 82 gun suicides, and there were two unintentional gun deaths.”

And Sen. Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale) said the desire of people to arm themselves everywhere is based on paranoia.

“You can't run around scared all the time,” he said. And Contreras rejected the contention that more armed people is a good thing.

“I don't feel that a room full of people, everyone with a gun, is going to make me feel safer,” he said, saying there are some “pretty crazy” people out there. “And you just don't know which one is losing their mind.”

But Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) responded that she does not want to have to worry or “run around scared.”

“When I go to a building that says it's a gun-free zone, that is a beacon for a void of safety,” she said.

Both measures now need approval of the full Senate.

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