PHOENIX — More than 200,000 Arizonans who have permits to carry concealed weapons could soon be able to bring them into most public buildings, ignoring “no guns” signs at the door.
HB 2339, given preliminary approval by the Senate on Tuesday, presumes those who have gone through the required state training to get a concealed-weapon permit need to protect themselves and others from those who are not law-abiding citizens — people who may already be bringing the weapons into public buildings despite the law.
But Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said the legislation is based on a faulty premise that those who have concealed-carry permits have gone through extensive training on not only handling their weapons, but when it is appropriate — and when it is not — to use deadly force.
The legislation, which needs a final roll-call vote before going to the governor, was one of several measures on weapons acted on by the Senate on Thursday.
Lawmakers also voted to add more teeth to existing laws that pre-empt the right of cities to enact their own gun laws.
HB 2517 requires a court to assess a fine of up to $5,000 against any elected or appointed government official, or the head of any administrative agency, if there is a knowing and willful enactment of a local gun law that exceeds the restrictions permitted by the state.
The same measure also precludes the use of public funds to defend or reimburse someone found guilty of breaking the law for his or her legal costs.
It also permits individuals and gun-rights groups to sue local officials and, if they are successful, get reimbursed for actual damages of up to $100,000.
The Senate also approved HB 2483, which prohibits local governments from restricting the use of firearms on private lands.
But it is the measure on public buildings that potentially has the largest impact.
Current law says anyone carrying a weapon has to surrender it at the door of a public building if there are lockers immediately available. But only some buildings have armed guards and metal detectors to ensure compliance.
The result, according to proponents, is that those who obey the signs are defenseless if someone else enters the building and starts shooting.
Gallardo said there is little difference between those licensed to carry a concealed weapon and those who are not.
There is a requirement for a background check. And only those 21 and older can have such a permit, though a separate bill approved by the House on Tuesday lowers that to 19 for those who have been honorably or generally discharged from the military.
But specific requirements for how much training is required and showing of proficiency with the weapon are no longer part of state law. Instead, that has been replaced by one of several options, such as completion of a firearms safety or training course or class that is approved by the Department of Public Safety or certified by the National Rifle Association.
“We have whittled down our CCW (carrying concealed weapons) laws over the last 10 years where they are unbelievably laughable,” Gallardo said. “Just about anyone can obtain a CCW license.”
The law does permit governments to enforce a gun ban — but only in buildings with both armed guards and metal detectors. But that has drawn objections from some local governments that want to keep certain buildings free of weapons but object to the cost of both the equipment purchase and staffing requirements.
And some other existing exceptions would not be disturbed.
For example, weapons permit holders could not bring their guns into public schools, community colleges or universities. Also off-limits would be any public event with a liquor license, a provision designed to keep them out of large sports arenas. Existing law already allows permit holders to bring their guns into bars.