Charles Heller of the Arizona Citizens Defense League and Gerry Hills of Arizonans for Gun Safety are usually on opposite sides of any debate.
But this year, both Heller and Hills have found something to agree on:
They claim that that more pro-firearms bills could have passed this year, but Governor Doug Ducey seems to have helped keep them down.
"Most of our bills, they got squashed in committee," Heller said on Friday. "The governor didn't want to have to veto them."
Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, agreed with Heller's assessment of likely interference by the governor on various pro-gun bills.
Naturally, she sees the alleged interference as a good thing.
"I think the governor is very good about making it clear that he doesn't want certain bills to get to his desk, and they don't get to his desk," Hills said. "We considered that we had a pretty good year this year."
A spokesman for Ducey denied their theory.
Heller did not offer any direct proof of Ducey's intervention. But a prime example this year was SB 2118, he said, which would have allowed the state to enter into an interstate compact with like-minded states that want to make sure that private gun transactions aren't restricted.
"This was the second year in a row it died," Heller said. "The governor vetoed it last year."
This year, the bill "somehow" failed to make it out of a legislative committee before a February deadline. Ducey did not want to veto it again, so he "made sure" he would not have to, Heller surmised.
Two other bills supported by the AzCDL that didn't make it out of committee:
• HB 2318, which would require conviction of a crime before a concealed weapons permit could be revoked.
• HB 2409, which would raise the standard for when someone could file an injunction against harassment that would cause someone else to lose their gun rights temporarily.
The AzCDL, which pushed for Arizona's successful concealed-carry law in 2014, is one of the most active gun-rights groups in the state.
Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey's deputy chief of staff for communications, said the governor doesn't weigh in on bills as they move through the Legislature, "in part because we don't want to influence the outcome."
It would be "extremely rare" for the governor or his staff to exert that sort of influence, he said.
Heller's argument on SB 2118 is not "logical," Scarpinato said, because Ducey wouldn't be worried about vetoing something he had already vetoed previously.
"As for gun rights, the governor is a strong proponent of strengthening our Second Amendment rights, and he is proud Arizona is one of the best states in the country for gun owners," Scarpinato added.
Although Ducey vetoed the interstate compact bill last year, he also strengthened Arizona's law protecting private firearms sales and signed a bill clarifying that people may carry guns on roads adjacent to areas where firearms are prohibited, like college campuses.
However, Hills said Ducey — a businessman who wants to run the state like a business — realizes that it's not good for Arizona's economy to support "this constant weakening" of gun laws. She believes the push-back on AzCDL ideas happened because Ducey wants to "balance" the needs of the pro-gun lobby with those of other interest groups.
Businesses across the country that consider relocating here may be wary of an "extremist gun agenda," she said. "They don't want the wild, wild West."
Heller and his group also were unhappy with three Republican lawmakers this year who helped kill desired pro-firearms bills.
The group strongly backed HB 2022, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Fountain Hills, that would have legalized shooting varmints — like rattlesnakes — in city limits with a .22-caliber gun if "snake shot" was used instead of bullets.
Heller said the bill failed in the State Senate when Republican senators Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix, and Bob Worsley of Mesa "voted with the Democrats."
McGeetold the press after her vote in April that HB 2022 was "not a good bill," and Lawrence accused her publicly of being a Democrat in disguise.
Heller said McGee and Worsley of Mesa screwed up another bill, SB 1243, along with Senator Frank Pratt of Casa Grande. The bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, would have allowed people with concealed weapons permits to ignore a no-guns sign in government buildings where all visitors were not screened for weapons. It failed in late February after a vote on the State Senate floor.
"Three Republicans forgot their spines that day," Heller said.
Heller praised several pieces of legislation that Ducey did sign this year, including:
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• A law banning electronic tracking of firearms or ammunition with blockchain technology or other means.
• A law that bans the use of federal or state databases as a requirement for facilitating private firearms transactions.
• A law that bans cities and counties from regulating possession of firearms for any independent contractors they may employ.