Loaded guns in vehicles could become a regular part of school carpool lines under a bill advancing at the Arizona Legislature.
The proposal, House Bill 2840, allows for loaded firearms under the control of an adult in a vehicle on school grounds. It passed through the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday by a 6-3 vote, with one member absent.
The proposal is one of at least 18 bills introduced in this session relating to firearms, weapons and concealed carry, and one of six that has made it to a committee while the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot lives of Arizonans every day.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jacqueline Parker, R-Mesa, called the legislation “simple,” as it applies to guns in vehicles on school grounds and nowhere else.
Under Arizona and federal law, loaded weapons cannot be within 1,000 feet of K-12 school grounds. Common exceptions elsewhere include proposals like Parker’s, where a firearm remains in a vehicle located on school grounds for the purpose of being near the school for pick-up or drop-off.
“If you have a gun in your car, you don’t have to unload your gun before picking up your children from school,” said Parker on Wednesday at the bill’s hearing.
Parker said the current rule, which asks gun owners to unload their weapons before entering a school parking lot, is impractical and penalizes gun owners who are exercising their Second Amendment right.
This proposal is also one of many making its way through the session relating to concealed weapons. Another bill, HB 2551, would let local governments decide to place guards and metal detectors at designated gun-free zones or exempt individuals from weapons bans in place at public facilities.
Dan Reid, National Rifle Association western regional director, said the group has worked on the proposal which he said allows parents and guardians dropping off their children to not be required to deviate by parking off campus to secure and unload a firearm.
Reid said he wasn’t aware of guns discharging in vehicles in the state.
Proposals like Parker’s have been introduced before. Proponents in sessions past had similar views of how the proposal would help Arizonans exercise their rights. They said in 2019 that it’s not practical for gun owners to stop to unload their weapons.
Opponents had safety concerns too, echoing how the presence of guns may put more students in harm’s way than it would help.
Teresa Neiberg, an Arizona mother of five and volunteer with the state’s chapter of Mom’s Demand Action, said Wednesday the bill “ignores the fact that there are legitimate public safety concerns that drive schools to prohibit loaded firearms from being stored on their property, including the risk of guns being stolen from cars.”
According to reporting from NPR, the number of guns stolen from cars has increased in states that have made it easier for people to carry firearms on the road.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday also approved HB 2827, which would create a civil action avenue for firearm entities that may have been discriminated against by a financial or government institution.
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