PHOENIX — Legislation moving forward would encourage business owners to welcome customers who carry guns, by granting special protections from lawsuits if someone gets shot.

Approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee, the legislation says someone injured by another person with a firearm cannot sue a business that allows weapons inside, unless there is a proof the business owner “intends to cause injury or acts with gross negligence.” But if there is a “no guns” sign at the door, the business can be held liable for simple negligence.

Dave Kopp, lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said the disparate treatment is justified. In telling their customers they cannot bring in their own guns, businesses are accepting some responsibility for their safety, he said.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said businesses should be held responsible for their decisions, “including depriving a customer of the right of self defense.”

Activist Alan Korwin said the real goal of SB 1159 is to end “reckless” policies of businesses that deny customers their Second Amendment rights.

“This bill is about discrimination,” he told the committee. “It’s about whether or not you can post the sign to say, ‘You’re not welcome here, we don’t want your kind.’”

The suggestion that “no guns” signs amount to discrimination is “offensive,” countered Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson.

Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, said there’s another side to the issue. “A business owner should be able to decide whether or not they want guns in their establishment,” she said.

“It seems like the purpose of this is to punish businesses that post a gun-free zone. But that is completely their right to do,” said Rep. Kirsten Engle, D-Tucson.

The measure, which squeaked out of the Senate last month on a 16-14 vote, now needs approval of the full House.