PHOENIX - Republican Gov. Jan Brewer wasted no time signing into law one of a series of gun bills approved by the Arizona Senate on Wednesday, one that bars local government agencies from restricting shooting on private property.
Brewer signed House Bill 2483 Wednesday evening, shortly after it was transmitted to her office. Two other bills remain unsigned and a third has not yet reached her desk.
HB 2483 bans cities, counties and towns from restricting the shooting of guns on private property as long as the nearest occupied structure is more than a quarter-mile away. The bill by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, passed the Senate on a 16-13 vote Wednesday and had earlier passed the House.
Kavanagh says the bill was prompted by Yavapai County's effort to restrict shooting on a property owned by a rural Prescott man. It was opposed by Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who says the state should not be stepping in to a local zoning issue.
The Republican-controlled Senate also approved House bills 2338, 2339 and 2517 on Wednesday, part of a continuing effort to relax gun law by GOP lawmakers who say their Second Amendment rights are under attack.
Two of the other bills allow concealed carry permit holders to take guns into government buildings that don't have strict security measures and punish cities and towns that enact gun ordinances stricter than the state's own laws. The fourth allows law enforcement to charge someone who wrests a gun from another person's hands with aggravated assault, even though it is already a felony offense to take someone's gun.
Most of the bills have had general Republican support but Democratic opposition as they made their way through both chambers. However, one Democrat voted in favor of one of the gun bills. Sen. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearney, voted for House Bill 2339, which would allow guns in government buildings. Her vote was crucial as two Republicans voted against the bill. Senators John McComish, R-Phoenix, and Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, voted against the bill.
The bills include:
-- House Bill 2339 would allow gun owners with concealed-carry permits to bring weapons into government buildings unless security measures -- including armed guards, metal detectors and gun lockers -- are in place. The measure, by Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, excludes public K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year. The Senate approved the bill 16-12. It is awaiting action by the governor.
-- House Bill 2338 would allow authorities to charge a person who's accused of wresting a gun away from someone else with aggravated assault. Doing so is already a felony offense. Proponents said it is a preventative measure in case a criminal were to take the gun of someone using it in self-defense. Democrats said the measure is a waste of time because it rehashes what's already a crime. The bill was also sponsored by Barton. It was approved with a 21-7 vote, but was amended in the Senate so requires a final House vote.
-- House Bill 2517, sponsored by Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, would impose fines on cities, towns and their lawmakers who enforce gun ordinances more strictly than the state's own laws. The bill would impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 on city and town governments that violate the statute. It would also allow the state to sue individual government officials, such as city councilors, and would prohibit them from using public funds to defend themselves in court. The Senate passed it with a 17-12 vote and it also awaits the governor's action.