By RYAN VAN VELZER | Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — A Republican lawmaker who has been pushing a series of guns rights bills pulled out a new proposal Monday, tacking an amendment onto a minor bill that will legalize sawed-off shotguns, silencers and nunchucks in Arizona.
The state already has some of the strongest Second Amendment protections in the country, but the Republican-dominated Legislature is working to add more breathing room for gun owners.
The amendment by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, adds to a bill designed to restore a person's gun rights if a judge sets aside a guilty conviction.
“We have a right to keep and bear arms and really that right shouldn't be infringed,” she said.
The amendment legalizes devices that muffle guns, rifles and shotguns with barrels less than 16 inches and nunchucks _ weapons made from two sticks or rods connected by a rope or chain.
Ward said the idea for her amendment came from a pastor in the western Arizona community of Topock who wants to own nunchucks.
Critics said the amendment is overly broad and avoided scrutiny by never going through committee hearings.
Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said Ward's amendment makes the bill less about helping people and more about legalizing weapons prohibited under Arizona law.
“It is only going to further our reputation on `The Daily Show' here in Arizona that we couldn't find a way of banning driving while texting while at the same time making legal silencers, sawed-off shotguns and nunchucks.”
Rep. Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he sees the problem with sawed-off shotguns, but not silencers. This bill could be going too far, he said.
“If they kept the bill the way it was originally it would have passed, but now it's in jeopardy,” he said.
Senate Bill 1460 received initial approval Monday and now awaits a formal vote.
The bill comes at a time when Arizona residents want to see gun laws kept as they are, according to a Rocky Mountain poll released Monday.
The number of residents in support of stricter gun laws declined 12 percent since April 2013 while the number of people who said laws should remain the same increased to 48 percent.
“For the moment, it appears there is more support leaving the status quo the way it is,” said Earl De Berge, director of research for the Rocky Mountain Poll.
Two other firearms bills received initial approval in the Legislature Monday.
One allows prosecutors to charge someone who tried to take another person's gun with felony aggravated assault.
Sponsor Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said the bill sends a message that taking a firearm from someone's hands is a serious offense.
Kathleen Mayer, chief legislative liaison for Pima County attorney, said House Bill 2509 is unnecessary because the act is criminalized in other statutes including assault and robbery.
“We don't find it helpful to enact laws making an inanimate object the victim,” Mayer said.
Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law last year.
The Senate also gave initial approval to a bill adding penalties to cities, towns and municipalities that make laws pre-empting Arizona gun laws.