The Arizona Senate gave initial approval Monday to three new bills that expand the rights of gun owners, including a renewed proposal allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry guns into some public buildings.
The measure comes from Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, after a bill he tried to push last year failed to pass. Previous versions of the bill were vetoed three times by former Gov. Jan Brewer.
Senate Bill 1243 would require operators of public establishments to allow permit-holders to carry their firearms unless their buildings have security guards and metal detectors at their entrances.
Federal buildings, schools and universities, courtrooms and the Maricopa Medical Center would be exempt.
"Right now the little $1.98 decal that says `no firearms allowed' on the entrance to these facilities doesn't keep bad guys out," Kavanagh said. "I don't have any problem having people who have had clearance checks, who are law-abiding people, to be able to possess weapons in these places."
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said there are many public buildings without screenings where guns should be banned. He said allowing armed people in places like libraries and bars could create potential danger, and will make emergency situations in these public places more difficult for police.
"It puts a literal gun to the head of any governmental entity that wants to decide to ban guns from its territory," Farley said. "You either are going to allow guns anywhere, or you're going to pay a whole bunch of money in order to have the secured facilities so that you can ban the guns."
An analysis of last year's bill shows that if firearms are prohibited from all 161 eligible Maricopa County facilities that do not have security measures stated in the proposal, it would cost $22.2 million in the first year and $11.6 million each following year.
Kavanagh's proposal now awaits a formal Senate vote.
The Senate also approved two other bills expanding gun rights on voice votes. Senate Bill 1159 would keep any person or entity from being liable for damages from someone else's use of a weapon in areas that are not gun-free zones. Another bill, Senate Bill 1344, would make independent contractors exempt from regulations regarding firearm possession.