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Arizona Senator Would Legalize Silencers

PHOENIX (CN) - Arizonans will be able to own sawed-off shotguns, silencers and nunchucks if the Legislature approves a bill introduced in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1460 also would allow felons who serve their time and/or probation to apply to have their convictions set aside so they can buy guns.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City.

Possession of sawed-off shotguns, silencers and nunchucks is illegal, today, in Arizona.

The legalization proposal was "brought to me by two constituents who had issues with getting their gun rights restored and were hoping for a way to remedy that," Ward told Courthouse News Service.

Some Democratic senators have reservations about the bill.

"What this bill does is it attacks an interesting issue about what should happen after someone's conviction is set aside and what rights should be restored to that individual after the setting aside of a conviction," said Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix.

"I think this is a good topic that we should be discussing, but for us to limit it to only firearms I think really shows that we have some priorities that are misplaced here."

Quezada later said on the Senate floor that a person is entitled to constitutional rights if his or her conviction has been set aside, but he cautioned the Senate from acting until people who have convictions set aside are able to vote.

"The underlying bill actually isn't necessarily a bad idea, but my arguments, which I made on the floor, were that if we are going to prioritize restoring any rights in circumstances like this, we should first look at restoring people's right to vote rather than the right to bear arms," Quezada said in a statement.

"Sen. Ward's amendment was the icing on the cake that solidified my opposition to that bill," Quezada said. "I absolutely cannot support the bill with the inclusion of that amendment."

State Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, also expressed his concerns on the Senate floor.

"I think, if I read the Ward amendment right that we just approved, that this bill is now less about setting aside convictions and more about making sawed-off shotguns and silencers legal in Arizona, which seems to me a pretty big move to be doing as an amendment to a bill that otherwise I think I could find inoffensive," Farley said.

"I think law enforcement might have something to say about that because silencers and sawed-off shotguns can be used against them rather than in their stead."

The Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Phoenix Police Department declined to comment on the pending legislation.

Ward said he is weighing whether to make any changes to the bill before it is brought back to the Senate floor, including opening the discussion to law enforcement and potentially separating the controversial amendment from S.B. 1460.

"I'm still kind of going back and forth," Ward said. "I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to sneak anything by."

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