Republicans push to legalize silencers, sawed-off shotguns

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Republican lawmakers are pushing a series of bills to protect gun owners and expand their rights to own sawed-off shotguns, silencers and nunchucks in Arizona.

The state already has some of the strongest Second Amendment protections in the country and the Republican-dominated Legislature wants to give them some breathing room.

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, added an amendment legalizing the weapons and accessories onto a minor bill that restores a person's gun rights if a judge sets aside a guilty conviction.

"We have a right a right to keep and bear arms and really that right shouldn't be infringed," she said.

The amendment includes devices that muffle guns, rifles and shotguns with barrels less than 16 inches and nunchucks - a weapon made of two rods connected by a rope or chain used in martial arts.

Ward said the idea for her amendment came from one a pastor in Topock, Arizona, who wants to own nunchucks.

Opponents to the amendment said it wasn't given opportunity to be heard in committee and its scope is broader than the initial bill.

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said Ward's amendment makes the bill less about helping people and more about legalizing weapons prohibited under Arizona law.

"It is only going to further our reputation on the Daily Show here in Arizona that we couldn't find a way of banning driving while texting while at the same time making legal silencers, sawed-off shotguns and nunchucks."

Rep. Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he doesn't see the problem with silencers, but sawed-off shotguns are a problem. This bill could be going too far, he said.

"If they kept the bill the way it was originally it would have passed, but now it's in jeopardy," he said.

Senate Bill 1460 received initial approval Monday and now awaits a formal vote.

The bills comes at a time when Arizona residents want to see gun laws kept as they are, according to a Rocky Mountain poll released Monday.

The number of residents in support of stricter gun laws declined 12 percent since April 2013 while the number of people who said laws should remain the same increased to 48 percent.

"For the moment it appears there is more support leaving the status quo the way it is," said Earl De Berge, director of research for the Rocky Mountain Poll.

Two other firearms bills received initial approval in the Legislature Monday.

One bill allows prosecutors to charge someone who tried to take another person's gun with felony aggravated assault.

Sponsor Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said the bill sends a message that taking a firearm from someone's hands is a serious offense.

"We need to make this a serious offense, an aggravated assault," she said.

Kathleen Mayer, Chief Legislative Liason Pima County attorney, said House Bill 2509 is unnecessary because taking someone's gun is criminalized in other statutes including assault and robbery.

"We don't find it helpful to enact laws making an inanimate object the victim," Mayer said.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law last year.

The Senate also gave initial approval to a bill that adding penalties to cities, town and municipalities that create laws pre-empting Arizona gun laws.