By Daniel Stefanski |
In a legislative session quickly being defined by partisan standoffs between House and Senate Republicans and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs, one freshman lawmaker has found a bill that is bringing both sides together – and may earn a signature from Hobbs if it clears both chambers.
Representative Selina Bliss introduced HB 2617, dealing with the carrying of firearms for constables. According to the overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives, the bill “includes an on-duty or off-duty constable, who meets certain requirements, within the definition of a peace officer who may not be prohibited from carrying a firearm except in limited circumstances.”
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News, Representative Bliss explained that she introduced HB 2617 after learning from her own Yavapai County Constable Ron Williams “that constables and deputy constables are not part of the list in ARS 38-1113, which covers off-duty carry of firearms by peace officers. This list currently includes county attorneys, retired officers, out-of-state officers, and federal officers; but it doesn’t include constables. Currently, ARS 22-131 states that a constable is a peace officer only in the course of their duties. Therefore, the attorney general has determined that constables have no off-duty carry rights. But the attorney general has also stated that constables may be required to act as peace officers while off -duty.”
The Attorney General’s opinion that Representative Bliss referred to is from Mark Brnovich on July 22, 2016, answering questions presented by Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles.
As Representative Bliss sees it, “this conundrum puts Arizona Constables in danger given that constables may be required to act as peace officers while off-duty, but are not allowed to carry a firearm while off duty in circumstances where other peace officers are allowed to carry.”
Last week, HB 2617 was considered by the House Military Affairs & Public Safety Committee and garnered thirteen votes in support – with two Democrat members voting “present.” No member of the committee voted in opposition to the legislation.
Addressing the committee’s overwhelmingly favorable vote for her bill, Representative Bliss said, “I believe the bipartisan vote out of committee occurred because we don’t want to put our constables in harm’s way. It makes logical sense that a constable who is an elected peace officer, sometimes still in uniform while on a break from duties, should have the option to protect themselves while off duty and to also be prepared to act as would any other off duty peace officer.”
This bill awaits further action in the Arizona House.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.