- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona lawmakers want to allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry firearms into some public buildings.

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that has become part of an annual effort by Republican lawmakers like Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who says that signs prohibiting firearms are woefully inadequate for protecting the public. “If you honestly believe that signs on the doors keep weapons out, I think that’s dishonest,” he said.

Kavanagh sponsored this year’s legislation that would allow holders of concealed-carry permits to take their weapons into public buildings such as libraries, city halls and the Legislature.

The proposal would require operators of those buildings to allow permit-holders to carry their firearms or to put in security measures such as guards and metal detectors.

Courtrooms, certain federal buildings, correctional facilities, high schools and universities would be excluded from the concealed-carry requirements.

Kavanagh said the measure gives municipalities a choice between allowing concealed-carry permits holders to carry firearms and tightening security.

Last session, the Arizona Department of Administration estimated the additional security could cost between $9 million and $17 million annually for its buildings if it doesn’t allow permit-holders to carry firearms, according to legislative analysts.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said it’s not really a choice for cities and towns that would be left to pick up the tab for security if they don’t want to let firearms into their buildings. “Local governments are charged with representing the people of those jurisdictions, and we should have the trust in them to have the best fit for them,” Quezada said.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the measure three times. A similar measure died last session.

The Senate Committee on Government passed Senate Bill 1257 on a 4-3 vote. It now undergoes a standard constitutional review before going to a full Senate vote.

The committee also passed a measure by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, that would punish any city, town or county that enacts regulations that are stricter than state law. Senate Bill 1266 would allow the court to enforce penalties of up to $50,000 for knowingly, or willingly, violating the state’s pre-emption laws.

Arizona has more than 250,000 registered concealed-carry permits holders as of January, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

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