Arizona Senate rejects bill allowing guns in public buildings

PHOENIX (AP) - The full Arizona Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry guns in many public buildings in the latest failure for the yearly proposal.

Three Republicans joined all 13 Democrats in opposing the bill, which has been an annual effort at the Legislature for at least six years. Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed versions three times in her last four years in office. The proposal failed to pass in both 2015 and 2016, never making it to Gov. Doug Ducey's desk.

Senate Bill 1243 by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would have required operators of public establishments to allow permit-holders to carry their firearms unless their buildings have security guards and metal detectors at their entrances. He said he tried again this year hoping new senators could back his effort.

"It only failed by one vote last year," Kavanagh said. "I was hoping that it would pass this year. It didn't, but there's always next year because the 2nd Amendment doesn't go away."

Opponents of the bill say there are many public buildings without screenings where guns should be banned, and allowing them could create potential danger.

"I did not support the bill," Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, who voted no. "Cost to the communities would be one thing. I just didn't think it was good policy."

An analysis of the bill by the Legislature's budget analysts shows that if firearms are prohibited from all state buildings, the cost to provide security would be between $3.7 million and $6.3 million in the first year alone, with ongoing costs just slightly lower. Maricopa County officials said if they banned guns in all 161 eligible Maricopa County facilities that do not have security measures, it would cost $22.2 million in the first year and $11.6 million each following year.

The Senate passed two other bills Tuesday expanding gun rights. Senate Bill 1159 would keep any person or entity from being liable for damages from someone else's use of a weapon in areas that are not gun-free zones. Senate Bill 1344 would make independent contractors exempt from regulations regarding firearm possession.

Those bills now move to the House for consideration.

Every year gun rights advocates in the Republican-led state have proposed a series of bills to further loosen restrictions on firearms. Several proposals have already passed the House and await Senate action.

Senate Bill 1243
misconduct involving weapons; public places

Senate Bill 1159
civil liability; damages; weapons

Senate Bill 1344
firearms; state preemption; employees