Arizona is considering bills that could ban the sale and use of firearms by some of the state’s residents, but the proposal faces a steep uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate.
The Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of a measure to allow the state to temporarily ban guns from those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill.
It was the first time since 2013 that the Senate voted in support of such a bill.
It passed along party lines, 52-41, with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, the sponsor of the measure, saying the bill was aimed at providing a legal mechanism to allow for the state government to temporarily suspend gun rights.
But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said it would be “dangerous” to allow people with mental health problems to be prohibited from owning guns.
Arizona has a long history of allowing people to purchase guns, and there are more than 60,000 licensed gun owners in the state, according to the state Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Coburn’s bill would exempt some gun owners who are deemed “mentally ill” from having their firearms restricted, but he said that was a “minuscule” percentage of the population.
Republican Sen. Larry Fitzwater, R of Mesa, told The Arizona Republic that his measure would not be a blanket ban on gun ownership.
But he said the bill would “limit gun rights to the mentally ill, which we believe are the ones that need to be restricted.”
“We’re not trying to make anybody feel unsafe,” Fitzwater said.
“We’re trying to get a balance between public safety and personal freedom.”
“People with mental illness are already prohibited from having firearms in Arizona.
It is the job of the legislature to ensure that the state can manage those restrictions.”
The measure passed in the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 10-4, and will now go to the House, where Republican Rep. David Harris, R a Tucson suburb, said he hoped the legislation would be taken up in a bipartisan way.
Harris has a track record in the Legislature of opposing gun control measures that would allow gun rights advocates to try to ban gun ownership, and he is expected to try again in the next session.
Doug Ducey, a staunch opponent of gun rights, is expected next year to sign a bill that would expand gun rights for people who have committed felonies, or those who commit serious violent crimes.
In 2016, Ducez approved a measure that expanded gun rights and banned felons from owning firearms.
It also prohibited people convicted of felonies from owning or possessing firearms.