Arizona legislative panel advances two gun bills

Arizona Republican lawmakers have advanced two measures aimed at boosting the rights of gun owners.

One measure would prohibit police and sheriffs from enforcing federal gun laws that violate the 2nd Amendment. The other would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in public buildings and events on public property unless there are metal detectors and security screeners.

Both measures cleared the House Government and Elections Committee in party-line votes on Feb. 10 with Republicans in support.

Backers of the first bill said it would ensure that the rights of gun owners are protected from what they say is the potential for overreach by President Joe Biden’s administration. Democrats said the courts are the proper place to litigate the legality of gun laws and warned that HB2111 would empower law enforcement officials to substitute their own judgment and would likely reduce enforcement of laws meant to keep guns from domestic abusers.

RELATED: Battle between gun rights and gun control continues in Arizona

"It will enable extremists to defy federal gun laws," said Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, pointed to Democratic jurisdictions in other states that enacted similar laws to block enforcement of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

"I don’t have a problem with nullifying unconstitutional laws. I think that’s our duty," Kavanagh said. "What I do have a problem with are cities, states across this nation that are nullifying constitutional laws, in particular immigration laws."

The other bill, HB2551, would require that guns be allowed in most public buildings and publicly owned spaces unless there is security screening. Kavanagh, who sponsored the bill, said law-abiding gun owners obey signs banning weapons and might find themselves unable to protect themselves against someone illegally carrying a gun in a public building.

Democrats said it would be expensive for cities, counties or other government agencies that want to keep guns out of their facilities to buy security equipment and hire personnel to run it.

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