Saying people need to protect themselves, the state House gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that would bar most property owners from telling people they can't bring guns into their parking lots.
No one objected vocally to the essence of the argument by supporters that individuals who take their cars to work, to go shopping or even to visit friends may want to be armed to protect themselves against attack. Instead, the objections were over the question of whether the parking lots of some places, like power plants or child care centers, should be off limits to weapons.
But in the end, the support was overwhelming, with the measure clearing the House easily on a 41-10 vote. And Todd Rathner, a member of the board of the National Rifle Association, which lobbied heavily for the change, said he believes there are sufficient votes in the Senate for HB2474 to get the legislation onto the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer.
Rathner, who made what he called a "courtesy call" on Brewer Wednesday, said he did not talk to her about the bill.
But he said the NRA has supported Brewer in past elections based on her stance on the right to bear arms. And he noted she is scheduled to address the organization's annual meeting on Friday.
Rep. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, said the legislation is an acknowledgement of reality.
"Probably for the past few centuries, hard-working Americans have been driving to work every day, and quietly and secretly been keeping their gun in their car without anyone knowing," he said.
"After this bill passes, that will likely continue," Antenori said. "But they don't have to worry now about being potentially fired or penalized for doing that."
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said people carry guns in their vehicles for all sorts of reasons, ranging from wanting to do "recreational shooting" before or after work or other activity to self defense. He said HB2474 strikes a "reasonable accommodation" between the rights of the gun owner and the rights of the property owner.
The measure requires that any weapon left in a vehicle not be visible and that the car or truck be locked. And nothing in the legislation overrules the ability of the owner of a private company or store to post signs prohibiting weapons and seek the arrest on trespass charges of anyone who refuses to leave a gun outside.
What it does do, Kavanagh said, is "empowers vulnerable people," like those who have been victims of domestic violence or others who work late at night and have to travel lonely roads.
But Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, said the legislation goes too far. While it does not override existing laws prohibiting weapons on the campuses of public schools, she said it now opens the campuses of private preschools and child care centers to people with guns in their vehicles.
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said there also should be exemptions for things like power plants. And Campbell said while the owners and renters of single-family detached homes could keep out vehicles with weapons, that right would not apply to apartment complexes or condominium complexes, even if the owners objected.