Arizona Senate panel OKs city liability for gun-free zones

National

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Senate panel on Thursday advanced a measure that would make government entities that don’t allow guns on their property liable if people are shot on their premises.

The proposal from Republican Sen. David Gowan would allow anyone to sue if they or loved ones are injured or killed after being barred from carrying weapons for self-defense on government property.

The measure is the latest in a years-long series of pro-gun measures that are routinely approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Arizona is among the most gun-friendly states in the nation, allowing open or concealed carry of guns without a permit in most places. But efforts to allow weapons on property owned by schools, universities and government buildings have failed.

“It’s just a simple bill that says if a government creates gun-free zones which prohibit a law-abiding citizen from defending themselves, then if harm comes to them because of that policy that entity will be held liable for the damages,” Gowan told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The point is, if you have a policy like this you protect them or allow them to protect themselves or there will be consequences.”

The bill was backed by guns-rights supporters and the Arizona Citizens Defense League, which lobbies for gun rights laws. Opponents include the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and a survivor of the 2011 assassination attempt on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson that severely injured her and 11 others and left six people dead.

Patricia Maisch grabbed a loaded magazine that gunman Jared Lee Loughner dropped as he attempted to reload his pistol. She and other bystanders disarmed him.

Maisch said she was glad another armed bystander chose not to fire as others grabbed Loughner’s gun, but worried about might happen if people are allowed to bring weapons into gun-free zones.

“New York City police are 74 percent accurate on the range,” Maisch testified. “They’re less than 34 percent accurate under fire, and you want some cowboy to come in and start shooting not knowing who is shooting?”

Supporting the measure was Merissa Hamilton, a former staffer for Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who described herself as a domestic violence survivor who carries a gun for self-protection.

Hamilton said she had to be unarmed at work and once was accosted by a homeless person, an event that left her shaken.

“Being able to carry a gun saves my life and if government is going to prohibit that then they should have to responsible for keeping me safe,” Hamiliton said.

Gowan’s proposal was approved by the committee on a 4-3 party-line vote and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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