Capitol Report: Another shot at bill to keep guns from the mentally ill

By Jordan Williams/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — Rep. Randall Friese (D-09) is making another attempt at passing a law that would provide for a mental health injunction on guns.

House Bill 2249 would allow a peacekeeping officer or family member to obtain a court-ordered injunction against someone having a gun for reasons relating to their mental health,  or if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

“It’s basically to protect oneself or others in a time of imminent threat or risk of injury to others,” Friese said. “And putting in the avenue, through statute, through which the weapon can be seized.”

Randall Friese

Currently in his third term in House, Friese serves as the assistant minority leader. Friese, a trauma surgeon, has introduced this legislation before. The bills were assigned a committee, but never made it out of committee.

“The bill never has had a hearing, so the public has not been able to weigh in on it,” Friese said. “Most gun safety measures in Arizona don’t make it to a point for a public comment”

Friese said he believes the gun lobby has flexed its muscle. “I believe the vocal minority are hyper-concerned about Second Amendment rights,” Friese said. “We do not want to limit anyone’s Second Amendment rights; we just want to be safe and we want to be sure that gun owners are responsible.”

Gun safety is getting more attention in Arizona. Following the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., last February, Governor Doug Ducey crafted a school safety plan that included an order like what Friese is proposing.

Injunctions like these are called a Severe Threat Order of Protection — or a STOP order —  intended to keep people who deemed to be are a danger to themselves or others from having access to a firearm.

According to the Giffords Law Center, eight states have laws that allow family members to obtain orders like what Friese is proposing. Maryland also allows certain mental health workers and other health workers to petition for an injunction.

In his State of the State address on Jan. 14, Ducey told lawmakers that his school safety plan is one of his priorities for the session.

Some people think such orders do not work. Charles Heller, a spokesperson for the Arizona Civil Defense League, a gun-rights group aimed at protecting rights and choices for “law-abiding citizens,” thinks that they are misguided.

“They rely on the notion that taking some guns from some people will somehow and somewhat mitigate these mass-casualty events, it’s stupid,” Heller said.

Ducey’s proposal would have made it a class-five felony to lie in order to obtain a STOP order, and punishable by six months up to two and half years in prison. HB 2249 would allow law enforcement to arrest a person under probable cause that a person violated the injunction.

However, both of these plans present a loophole, Friese said. “The problem is that we get the weapon away and they can go off and purchase another one quickly in Arizona without a background check, without any kind of database that indicates they’re at risk,” he said.

Friese thinks that HB 2249 might get more attention since Ducey intends on reviving his school safety plan; however, he doesn’t think the bill will get the public hearing he says is needed.

Without a public hearing, “s law doesn’t get fined-tuned, the law gets better when you allow it to go through the process,” Friese said.

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