An Arizona House committee passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit state agencies and employees from enforcing any new federal "act, law, order, rule or regulation" restricting gun ownership or ammunition.
Senate Bill 1330 prevents the federal government from forcing Arizona to use resources and manpower to enforce federal laws, said state Senator Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City), who introduced the legislation. It does not, however, block state agencies from "voluntarily" entering into agreements.
Ward said she developed the bill to fight the federal government's attempts at "go-arounds" that attack citizens' second amendment rights, including a proposal introduced earlier this month to ban certain types of ammunition that are commonly associated with assault rifles -- but can also be used in some new handguns. SB 1330 is her second attempt to pass legislation blocking state enforcement of federal gun laws.
Supporters, including Gun Owners of America and the Arizona Citizen's Defense League, argue that the bill is necessary to uphold the constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, which stipulates that states retain all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government. Similar proposals have been signed into law in Idaho and Montana.
"We need to put our foot down in Arizona," Ward said. "We need to express our sovereignty."
The committee on military affairs and public safety voted 5-3 to support the bill, but several legislators who voted "yes" noted reservations.
State Representative Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) said he agrees "conceptually" with the bill, but, as written, he worries it is too broad. In some cases, federal limitations on gun use and possession are valid under Article 6, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which designates federal laws as the "supreme law of the land."
"Certainly, I'm one who believes we use the supremacy clause wrong 99 percent of the time, but that means that 1 percent of the time it's used correctly," Farnsworth said. "That's where my concern comes in."
Critics argue the proposal is unconstitutional.
"I'm concerned about the litigation we face when we pass these laws against the federal government," said State Representative. Stefanie Mach (D-Tucson), before registering her "no" vote. "We can't afford to have any more litigation in our state. We can't afford to have that reputation."
Lyle Mann, executive director of the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, who testified before the committee, expressed concern that the law also would block positive changes to federal gun regulations. As an example, he held up the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which gives retired cops in good standing the right to carry weapons anywhere in the country. Congress is discussing expanding the law to include retired corrections officers.
"If these beneficial changes take place, under SB 1330, the people it's intended to help will be prohibited from participating," he said.
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The bill, which already passed in the Senate 17-12, will now head to the House Rules committee for further consideration.
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