PHOENIX — A bill being considered by Arizona legislators is seen as pitting gun owners’ Second Amendment rights against the private property rights of businesses and others.
Backed by the National Rifle Association, the bill would permit gun owners to keep legally owned weapons in their locked, privately owned vehicles while they’re parked in parking lots, garages or other parking areas of private property where the owner has a policy against allowing guns on the property.
The Republican lawmaker sponsoring the bill (HB2474) said it is intended to overturn bans that deprive employees and others of their Second Amendment rights.
“I was not aware that the Bill of Rights ends at private property,” said Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills.
The bans mean employees “can’t bring their legally possessed weapons with them to work, so that on the way to work and after work, they would not have access to their weapons for legal self-defense or recreational shooting if they want to go to a range,” Kavanagh said. “Having a firearm hidden and locked in a car is not a safety threat.”
Democratic leaders announced their opposition to the bill, which is expected to be considered by the House soon.
Overturning employers’ weapons bans could set the stage for deadly workplace violence, said House Minority Leader David Lujan of Phoenix. “This bill allows incredibly easy access to a firearm.”
Other Democratic leaders said the bill could compromise security at key facilities and that gun owners could and should find another place to park if a property chooses to ban guns.
“The owners of a piece of property should be able to dictate what they want — or what they do not want — to protect their employees,” said Rep. Chad Campbell of Phoenix.
Consideration of the bill by the full House could come either during or shortly before the NRA’s annual convention, which is being held May 14-17 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The bill was last considered by House caucuses March 31, and Democratic leaders speculated that action by the Republican-led House would be timed for political reasons to precede or coincide with the NRA gathering.
However, Kavanagh said the bill was held up only to allow time for meetings with businesses to address any concerns.
The bill has drawn opposition from several business groups, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Manufacturers Council.
A lobbyist for the manufacturers council testified that businesses have an obligation to keep their employees safe and that there are concerns about employee violence in the current poor economic climate.
As originally proposed, the bill included a provision to exempt property owners from liability in lawsuits resulting from a gun stored in a locked, privately owned motor vehicle parked on the property.
However, a House panel that reviews proposed legislation for potential constitutional flaws has recommended that the full House rewrite the liability exemption. As written, the provision would violate the Arizona Constitution’s guarantee for the right to sue to recover damages, a House staff attorney said.
The bill also contains a provision that states it wouldn’t apply in situations covered by other state or federal laws.