State Senator T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) announced on Monday that he was filing an ethics complaint against Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) for being absent for almost the entirety of this legislative session. Shope accused Mendez of abandoning his duties in the senate.
“I have informed the chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics that I will be filing an ethics complaint against the member from district 26 for essentially abandoning his position here in this body. I will be doing so over the next few days,” said Shope.
Shope made his announcement during a vote on whether to expel State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) from the Senate. That measure failed along party lines.
Both Mendez and his wife, State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe), have stayed away from the State Capitol almost entirely, save for Mendez’s visit in February and Salman’s visit in April. They’ve done so with the blessing of Republican House and Senate leadership, who furnished them with excused absences for the last five months.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) explained to The Arizona Republic that he gave Salman excused absences because he was “just trying to be nice.” Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) explained that Mendez had a doctor’s note recommending against the legislator’s return to in-person work.
The couple cited concerns about exposing their daughter to COVID-19, who was born in January. Salman requested to work remotely like the legislature had allowed during the last legislative session, but her request was denied.
Mendez and Salman argued to The Arizona Republic that they haven’t absconded from their responsibilities completely. Though they’re barred from voting remotely, the couple reported that they speak with the press and their constituents regularly as well as engage in the legislature by watching it virtually.
Six Arizona Democrats have introduced a bill that would amend the state’s criminal statutes by imposing a minimum $1,000 civil penalty on lawful gunowners who do not lock up their gun, carry the firearm on their body, or have it within “such close proximity” that it can be readily retrieved as if on one’s person while inside their home.
HB2582 would create Arizona Revised Statute 13-3123, entitled Misconduct Involving Storage of Firearms or Ammunition. It calls for a civil fine of at least $1,000 for each violation by a person in a residence they control for not having a firearm “in a securely locked box” or equipped with “a device that renders the firearm inoperable without a key or combination.”
The only exception would be if the person carries the firearm on his or her person inside the residence or has the gun “within such close proximity to his person that the person can readily retrieve and use the firearm as if it was carried on his person.”
The same lock it up, disable it, carry it, or have it readily retrievable mandate would apply to all sizes of firearms, including hunting rifles. It also applies to all ammunition, according to the bill sponsored by House Assistant Minority Leader Jennifer Longdon, along with Reps. Randall Friese, Daniel Hernandez Jr., Diego Rodriguez, Athena Salman, and Lorenzo Sierra.
There is no exemption in HB2582 for homes without children, for home-based businesses, or other situations where there would be no undue risk to others from placing one’s loaded but unlocked firearm in one room of a residence while the person is in another room.
The sponsors apparently do not consider it misconduct under their bill to have one’s gun unlocked in a garage or on a deck. The bill also does not address guests who bring an unlocked firearm or ammunition into someone else’s residence.
In 2016, it was estimated that Arizonans own nearly 6.9 million guns. That estimate is believed to have hit 7 million in 2020 based on gun industry sale reports.