Bill promises larger liability for posting 'gun-free zone' signs

Updated: Mar. 10, 2017 at 4:43 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The "no guns allowed" sign in a business window may have greater meaning if an Arizona bill passes.

Senate Bill 1159 is making its way through the House, after narrowly getting through the Senate. The legislation says that if a business posts a sign saying they are a "gun-free" zone, and a customer is shot by another customer, the store could be held to greater liability than a store that doesn't post the signs.

"It's our right to be able to protect this zone as a business owner," said Amy Smith, the manager at Exo Roast Co. coffee shop on 6th Avenue. "We choose to say we're not comfortable having you carry a firearm."

It's also a choice for Miller's Surplus across the street to welcome in gun carriers, with a welcoming sign. The owner at Certified Auto Electric Incorporated on East 45th Street tends to agree.

"Some people are comfortable with that," said owner James Chavez. "Corporate business, or a franchise, or a small business, they should be able to have their own policies as to what's going on on their property."

But Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) wonders why businesses who don't allow firearms should be treated differently. SB 1159 promises more protection for pro-gun stores, and could make anti-gun stores grossly-negligent and liable if something happens.

Gun-rights advocates say owners are accepting responsibility for their customers' safety by posting signs that don't allow guns. The greater obligation baffles Engel.

"I'm not sure the logic of that works. It seems to be a clear punishment of those property owners who are exercising their rights," Rep. Engel said Friday.

Some gun-rights advocates during the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee hearing went as far as calling it "discrimination," like denying a customer because of their race, according to Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson). During a phone call Friday with Tucson News Now, Hernandez called that notion "offensive."

"Those are apples and oranges. I don't see them as very similar things at all," Engel said.

Some Republican lawmakers argue the signs remove the gun-owner's right to self-defense. SB 1159 now moves to the full House, after narrowly passing through the House committee on Wednesday.

According to the NRA, Arizona law states any person 21 years of age or older, who is not prohibited possessor, may carry a weapon openly or concealed without the need for a license. Any person carrying without a license must acknowledge and comply with the demands of a law enforcement officer when asked if he/she is carrying a concealed deadly weapon, if the officer has initiated an "investigation" such as a traffic stop.

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