Terri Jo Neff
Two pieces of state legislation aimed at protecting gunowners’ rights made it out of the Senate on Wednesday, and it is now up to House Speaker Rusty Bowers to assign the bills to House committees.
SB1382 deems stores which sell firearms, ammunition, or components of either as “an essential business” during a state of emergency. The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary and Senate Rules committees in early February and passed on the Senate Floor by a 16 to 14 vote along party lines.
The bill impacts ARS § 26-303 under Military Affairs and Emergency Management, which currently guarantees emergency powers shall not allow the imposition of additional restrictions on the lawful possession, transfer, sale, transportation, carrying, storage, display or use of firearms or ammunition or firearms or ammunition components.
Under SB1382, the statute would be amended to add one sentence that specifies stores that sells firearms, ammunition, or components of such are essential businesses “and there may not be any restrictions imposed on the store’s normal operations” during a state of emergency.
The legislation would not require a store’s primary source of revenue to come from gun or ammunition sales, thus allowing businesses which sell other retail items in addition to firearms to remain open. One such business that would benefit from the legislation is Lilly’s Tombstone Memories, a specialty gift store on historic Allen Street in Tombstone.
If SB1382 had been the law when COVID-19 first hit, owners Lillian and Bob Hritz would have been able to remain open without fear of retribution against their business license. They, like a number of gun store owners, saw an increased customer demand starting last March but due to Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive orders many had to close.
Among those supporting the bill are the Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona and the Arizona Citizens Defense League.
Another gun rights bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, this one by a 17 to 13 vote.
SB1328 -known by its working title of the Second Amendment Firearm Freedom Act- would declare any federal act, law, treaty, order, rule, or regulation to be null and unenforceable in Arizona if the action violates the right to bear arms as provided by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or by the Arizona Constitution.
The bill sponsored by Sen. David Gowan (R-LD14) would also prohibit the State and any of its political subdivisions from using personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any federal act, law, treaty, order, rule, or regulation deemed in violation of the U.S. or Arizona Constitutions.
But unlike many bills, SB1328 as currently written includes a provision putting teeth into the new law by making the impairment of a citizen’s right to bear arms a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first offense. Each subsequent offense would be a Class 6 felony, and a judge would be required to impose the maximum fine and sentence allowed by law for anyone convicted of such conduct.
The bill also contains a provision allowing citizens to sue any “entity, agency, bureau, employee or official of Arizona or a political subdivision of Arizona” that engages in such infringement for judicial relief, damages, and attorney fees. However, it excludes persons working under the authority or orders of a government entity, agency, bureau, employee or official from the outlined prohibitions.