PHOENIX - Fearing new federal laws and regulations, a state legislator wants to provide legal cover for Arizonans who do not want to obey them - and impose penalties on federal officials who try to enforce them.
The proposal by Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, makes it illegal for any public servant to enforce "any act, law, statute, rule or regulation" of the federal government relating to personal firearms or accessories as long as they remain within the boundaries of Arizona. And it defines public servants to include not just state and local employees but legislators, judges, jurors, witnesses and consultants who perform government functions.
But HB 2291 contains no penalties. Smith said it instead would provide a defense of sorts for those who believe the Second Amendment precludes any new rules.
However, another provision would make it a felony, punishable by a year in state prison, for federal employees or officials who try to enforce those same laws or regulations.
Smith conceded a state law criminalizing the actions of federal employees would be considered legally suspect. But the second-term legislator said any issues are likely to be worked out in court.
The move comes as the president has asked Congress to approve new restrictions on assault-style weapons as well as limits on magazine capacity. Smith said his legislation, if approved, would pave the way for legislative lawyers to determine if there's "wiggle room" to ignore those statutes.
Where he said his measure may be more effective is on any action the president takes on his own.
Obama announced he will issue executive orders dealing with background checks, doing studies on gun violence and taking steps toward what could be new safety standards for weapons.
Smith said in those cases, a state law would have more effect than anything the president would do on his own, or any regulation a federal agency enacts without a specific law mandating it.
"I don't know that an agency can arbitrarily change a rule so dramatically without congressional approval," he said.
Smith said it would be one thing if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were making a technical change, like a fee increase.
"We're fundamentally changing the scope of the Second Amendment in many people's eyes," he said. "And I don't know that an agency can do that."
Smith said he is sending a message to the president and Congress.
"Here's a line in the sand: Thanks, but no thanks. Stay out with your federal regulations you're going to impose on us," he said.
His legislation could create a peculiar problem for federally licensed firearms dealers. That's because his prohibition against enforcing federal laws and rules would extend to them.
That would mean dealers who comply with state law would be risking the loss of their federal license and right to sell guns.
But Smith pointed out that, like the provision for state public servants, there is no penalty for dealers who ignore the Arizona law.
"We're fundamentally changing the scope of the Second Amendment in many people's eyes. And I don't know that an agency can do that."
Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa