Arizona House considers bill to block state-level gun restrictions

Arizona Republicans are looking to pass legislation to enter into an interstate compact to restrict the state government from enacting any regulatory hurdles or legal liabilities with regard to the transfer of firearms in addition to already existing federal laws.

The measure, if approved, would enact the compact, and prohibit any member states from creating or imposing any fees, taxes, penalties, mandates or regulations, or any civil or criminal liabilities, additional to already existing federal laws with relation to the transfer of firearms, according to a legislative fact-sheet.

The measure, which is intended to become effective at the earliest date permitted by law, would also repeal “any conflicting laws, regulations or policies that exist on the effective date of the Compact.”

But the compact will only be fully established if two or more states pass the enacting legislation.

The Arizona House’s Committee of the Whole discussed the legislation last Thursday.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, explained the compact was a “direct response” to former-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to “try to reduce the rights we have here” and in other states through his organizations’ ballot initiatives and lobbying.

However, Democratic representatives  Randall Friese and Stefanie Mach expressed concerns during the committee hearing that the compact would cede to other states the Arizona government’s “sovereignty” in being able to pass firearm legislation

Mach said she felt this legislation would “undermine” the ability of voters “to have their piece in policy making,” by blocking the initiative process.

She added this compact would not allow the voters of Arizona any more say in state policy than of any of the other states involved in the compact.

But Thorpe argued there are already other compacts similar to the one he was sponsoring, which he said allow states to “come together and work together.” And if future state legislatures decide the compact is no longer working for them, they can leave the compact, he added.

However, additional concerns were voiced by opponents with regard to the compact’s low barrier for entry, and the high barrier for exit.

According to the legislation, member states have a few options to withdraw themselves from or amend the compact, including every tenth year following the enactment of the legislation, calling a special session — of which all member states must be given written notice at least 30 days prior — to vote on amending or withdrawing from the compact, or with the unanimous written consent of all other compact states.

And the debate has taken place outside of the statehouse as well — lobbying groups on either side of the political spectrum have urged supporters to call their legislators and tell them their respective stances on the issue.

Moms Demand Action, for instance, put out a call to action on their Facebook page, requesting that their members and supports contact legislators and halt legislation they said “violates the constitutional right of AZ citizens to pass initiatives and referenda.”

“This bill would cede Arizona’s authority to make its own law regarding the sale and transfer of firearms and to protect its citizens, fully surrendering our legislative power,” the Facebook post read.

On the other side of the argument, the Arizona Citizens Defense League has been urging its supporters to contact their legislators in support of the legislation, which it says is the “best opportunity to derail the coming Bloomberg financed ballot measure to establish gun owner registration in Arizona before it happens.”

According to the AZ-CDL, compacts “supersede” state law, and once the compact is state law with another state having adopted the same compact, “a subsequent state law, or even a ballot measure, cannot override it.”

The AZ-CDL has argued that the Bloomberg-backed initiative to require all firearm transfers be subject to background checks, with the results stored in a state database, is really just a way for state governments to “identify law-abiding gun owners,” and require them to undergo a de facto gun registration.

The Committee of the Whole voted for approval of the compact, and is scheduled to be considered on third reading for a vote by the full body this week.

In other Arizona-related gun news, last Thursday the House voted to approve HB 2300, which will prohibit state or local governments from using their resources in the enforcement of federal personal firearms-related laws. According to the legislation, any local official who breaks that law could face a $3,000 fine on a first offense, while a second offense could carry jail time.