Republicans push to allow concealed guns onto Arizona school campuses

Gun Rights

A trio of GOP gun measures won approval from lawmakers Wednesday, including a measure that would allow people with concealed weapon permits to bring firearms onto Arizona school campuses. 

The Judiciary Committee in the state House of Representatives passed three bills put forward by pro-gun advocates. The committee is chaired by Rep. Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, who works as a volunteer coach for the Arizona Scorpions Junior High-Power Rifle team and also serves as president of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association. 

Senate Bill 1331, sponsored by Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, prohibits a school board from restricting a parent or legal guardian from having a firearm on school property if they have a concealed carry permit. 

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Shamp told the committee that the current law barring weapons on campuses has affected herself and “quite a few of her constituents” who had gotten emergency calls about their children and forgotten about a firearm they were concealing either on their person or in their purse. 

Gun control advocates who showed up to the meeting in large numbers did not feel the bill was appropriate. 

“I’m opposed to the presence of guns in schools, from kindergarten to colleges, which (the bill) would allow,” Anne Thompson, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, told lawmakers. Thompson also pointed to metal detectors and security in the House of Representatives, which bars visitors from bringing in weapons, questioning why lawmakers wouldn’t want similar protection for children at school. 

Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, expressed his frustration to Thompson over the metal detectors, saying that he has spoken to House leadership about having them removed. That prompted Nguyen to declare that he was currently practicing his “Second Amendment right” so everyone in the committee room was “safe.” 

Mary Cline, president and co-founder of the Students Demand Action chapter at University of Arizona, shared the story of how her father, who was the principal of her school, used a firearm in a domestic violence incident with her mother. Her father also allowed firearms on his campus. 

“We’ve had a lot of bills like this come through our committee in the 11 years that I’ve been here,” Rep. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, said. “One thing that I have heard time and time again is that more guns in people’s hands in a situation of that magnitude is not always the safest thing to have.” 

Contreras argued that more guns on school campuses, which saw the highest numbers of school shootings in 20 years this decade, would only make problems worse. That sentiment was echoed by his other Democratic colleagues. 

Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe, said she is concerned about accidental deaths on campuses. In the last five years there have been 100 deaths related to guns being mishandled in schools. 

Proponents of the bill, like Kolodin, said it was about the government not restricting a constitutional right while also not criminalizing parents. 

“Why are we making these good, law-abiding citizens into criminals?” Kolodin said. 

The bill has already won approval along party lines in the Senate and heads next to consideration by the full House. 

Silencer or ear protection? 

But SB1331 wasn’t the only gun measure heard Wednesday morning. 

Another proposal that cleared the GOP-controlled committee was Senate Bill 1109, which would legalize silencers and muzzle suppressors, accessories that are currently banned under state law

“This is a simple bill. It reinforces our right to have this kind of device on a firearm and it keeps it from being on a prohibited list,” Sen. Wendy Rogers, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee Wednesday, adding that critiques from Democratic members that these devices would make mass shootings deadlier are not “germane” to the bill. 

“How is that not germane?” Rep. Analise Ortiz, D-Phoenix, asked Rogers. 

“These aren’t the silencers that you see on a James Bond movie,” the Flagstaff Republican retorted. 

Rogers argued that silencers are needed so that help hunters and competitive shooters don’t damage their hearing, although both Rogers and the experts she brought to testify admitted they were not an “audiologist” or health professional. 

Silencers are available to gun owners in the United States but they have to be registered to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and get approval with the agency. There were 28,942 registered silencers in Arizona in 2016 and over 1 million registered nationwide. However, state law disallows such devices.

The bill heads next to the full House for debate. It previously passed out of the Senate on a party line vote, with only Republicans in support. 

Can’t discriminate against the NRA 

After the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, banks like JPMorgan Chase and CitiGroup began distancing themselves from the firearm industry. Last year, lawmakers began retaliating. 

Texas passed a law that bars state agencies from working with any firm that “discriminates” against companies or individuals in the gun industry and the law also requires banks, as well as others, to state that they will comply with the law. 

Now, Senate Bill 1096, by Sen. Frank Carroll, R-Sun City West, aims to do the exact same thing in Arizona. 

The Texas law has had major repercussions for the state, as JPMorgan underwrote a large number of the state’s bond deals. Now, billions of dollars in bonds are up in the air due to the legislation and it is estimated to have cost the Texan taxpayer between $300 million and $500 million in interest. 

“We aren’t opposed to gun manufacturers or anything like that,” Ryan Boyd, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of Counties, told the committee about the group’s opposition to the bill. Boyd noted the loss of underwriters Texas has seen as a result of its law and the impact it could have on county treasurers across the state who have to use larger financial institutions for their contracts. 

And Jay Kaprosy, a lobbyist representing the Arizona Bankers Association, said that banks are not distancing themselves from gun industries to “infringe on the Second Amendment,” as some lawmakers have suggested, but as part of “risk management” practices. Kaprosy also pushed back against claims that firearm industry groups have not been able to secure new banks after certain banks have left them. 

“There are a number of banks that have picked this up as a niche where they have aggressively seeked this out,” Kaprosy said. 

Those representing the firearm industry said differently. 

“It takes a lot of time to change millions upon millions of dollars of transactions and to move that stuff over,” Michael Findlay, a lobbyist for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said to the committee. Findlay said that gun manufacturer Ruger had to move their bank in Arizona. Ruger is worth nearly $1 billion. 

The bill has already passed out of the Senate along party lines and will head to the House next for a full vote.

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