State senate panel gives judge room to take weapons

A state legislator states that 40 percent of gun sales are unregulated.

Miner/file

A state legislator states that 40 percent of gun sales are unregulated.

PHOENIX – A Senate panel voted 4-3 Thursday to allow judges to force some people to surrender their weapons – but only after a multi-step process that supporters say will protect due process rights.

But foes of SB 1519 has what foes say is a glaring loophole: It does nothing to expand existing laws designed to ensure that those people who should not have a gun from getting one: universal background checks before a weapon can be sold.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety, said it was purposely designed that way.

"Pridefully, mind you, I'm A-plus rated by the NRA,'' he told dozens of people who came out to testify.

"I intend on keeping it that way,'' Smith said. "I am not going to run a piece of legislation that I think runs afoul to our constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights.''

But Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, who raised the question of expanding requirements for background checks on potential buyers, said she disagrees with how Smith sees the issue.

"I don't think we're asking to take away gun rights,'' she said. "I support responsible gun owners.''

Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, was more direct in her response.

"You may be proud of your NRA rating,'' she told Smith. "But this bill rates a D-minus,'' saying 40 percent of gun sales are unregulated, not subject to background checks.