The Arizona legislature is considering a dangerous package of bills that, if passed and signed into law, would pose a whole range of public safety issues, including ceding power of Arizona’s public safety laws to other states and making it harder for mayors and law enforcement to keep Arizona’s communities safe. In addition to threatening Arizona’s public safety at several levels, these bills all have one common thread: by voting yes, Arizona legislators would be bucking their responsibility to keep Arizonans safe – the very reason they were elected into office. Just yesterday, after a week of movement on other dangerous gun bills, House Bill 2524, which would hand over Arizona’s state sovereignty to other states, passed out of the House and awaits a vote in the Senate.
These bills are being pushed by gun lobby-backed legislators who are attempting to strip away local power – from mayors, law enforcement and even state legislators. Ultimately, all five bills put Arizonans in harm’s way and make Arizona more dangerous. Let’s lay out what’s on the line:
Senate Bill 1266 is legislation that would allow out-of-state special interest groups to sue local officials who attempt to enforce local gun laws. In case you forgot: it’s the same exact bill that gun-lobby-backed legislators attempted to push through last year – SB 1291 – but failed at doing so.
This egregious legislation would allow trial attorneys for the gun lobby to bring lawsuits against Arizona’s towns and cities. The bill provides for a penalty of up to $50,000 to be levied against a locality that tries to enact or enforce public safety laws tailored to local conditions. In addition, a successful lawsuit could net the special interest groups another $100,000 in damages, plus the cost of lawyers for both the locality and the gun lobby. Taxpayers would be forced to foot the entire bill. And finally, SB 1266 allows for a local official to be fired from his or her job for enforcing local laws and protecting public safety.
At the end of the day, the goals of SB 1266 are clear: it aims to intimidate mayors and police, and to line the pockets of out-of-state special interest groups. This punitive measure says that mayors and law enforcement could be fined – and even fired – for attempting to protect their own communities from gun violence. Even worse, taxpayers would foot the bill for costly lawsuits, as local governments would be forced to pay gun lobby attorneys’ fees if they lose in court.
But attempts to undermine local authority don’t stop there.
Senate Bill 1257 denies local governments their basic ability to keep Arizona’s children safe by forcing public facilities like libraries, recreation centers, fairs and government buildings to allow guns—that is, unless these local governments can afford to spend their limited public funds to outfit public spaces with expensive security equipment and personnel. Former Governor Jan Brewer called similar legislation an “unfunded mandate” and an “unnecessary diversion of limited resources,” and she vetoed similar bills in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
SB 1257 would undermine the authority of Arizona’s mayors and law enforcement when it comes to choosing what is best for their towns and cities when it comes to safety, discarding existing policies and instead allowing people to carry hidden, loaded weapons in the places where children play and learn.
This bill could also cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The Arizona Department of Administration has previously projected that the cost of this policy to the state would be up to $16.9 million in the first year of enactment, and up to $15.7 million in subsequent years. Maricopa County has projected $9 million in one-time costs along with $47 million each year in ongoing costs.
Up next: House Bill 2524, which, if passed and signed into law, would hand over Arizona’s state sovereignty to other states. HB 2524 would create an interstate compact that would block all states that sign on from passing any laws related to the sale or transfer of firearms. Arizona’s elected officials would be unable to write public safety laws without the consent of other states – and would not be able to leave the compact without out-of-state permission or calling a special session of the legislature.
Surrendering Arizona’s sovereignty is antithetical to the state’s strong values of independence and self-determination. But gun lobby-backed legislators think it’s a good idea to tie the hands of Arizona officials. What Arizonan would agree that the legislature should give other states veto power over public safety?
Let’s not mince words – HB 2524 is a bald-faced attempt by the gun lobby to ensure that future legislators, governors and even the Arizona public are unable to pass strong safety laws. By passing this bill, state legislators would undermine the rights of their own constituents – and even themselves – who currently have the right to broad constitutional authority to establish laws through their elected representatives or by ballot initiative and referendum.
And, to cap it all off, a pair of bills, House Bill 2300 and Senate Bill 1452, aim to intimidate and confuse state and local officials to keep them from enforcing important federal gun laws in the state.
These unnecessary bills are a classic gun lobby stunt to undermine federal law, which the U.S. Constitution makes the “supreme law of the land.”
HB 2300 would make it illegal for law enforcement to enforce any “unconstitutional” federal laws or to assist federal agents in enforcing these laws in any way. SB 1452 purports to do the same for federal executive actions or orders. By putting the burden on law enforcement to determine what federal laws and executive orders are legal to enforce, these bills would have a chilling effect on the enforcement of potentially every federal law. The proper place to challenge federal laws or executive actions on constitutional grounds is in a courtroom. These bills are yet another attempt to attack law enforcement’s authority, preventing the people in charge of protecting public safety from enforcing even perfectly legal laws out of fear of paying fines or going to jail.
HB 2300 and SB 1452 are just the latest additions to a laundry list of bad legislation being debated at the state capitol, running the gamut from letting out-of-state special interest groups sue cities and towns for enforcing existing law and making taxpayers foot the bill, to stripping local governments’ ability to keep guns out of certain places. Arizonans support the Second Amendment, but these bills fly in the face of common sense and undermine Arizonans’ rights and safety.