Lawmakers redesign immigrant firearm law - East Valley Tribune: Immigration

Lawmakers redesign immigrant firearm law

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2008 7:08 am | Updated: 9:41 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

State lawmakers are trying to resurrect a law designed to keep those in this country illegally from carrying firearms.

The proposal by House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, actually says that all foreigners in this country are forbidden from having guns. Exceptions would be made for those with permanent resident status and some others.

That's what lawmakers thought they were enacting four years ago. That statute essentially piggybacked Arizona law onto federal statutes on the rights of nonresident foreigners to carry weapons.

But in a unanimous decision last year, the state Court of Appeals pointed out that federal law specifically refers to weapons involved in interstate commerce. What that means, the appellate court said, is people could be convicted of violating state gun laws only if prosecutors could prove that the weapon in question was "shipped or transported in interstate commerce."

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which prosecuted that case, did not have that proof. The ruling also undermined the ability to use that 2004 law to prosecute illegal entrants with guns.

That still leaves the federal law.

But legislators approved the state law in 2004 after being told that meant it was up to federal agencies to decide whether to bring charges. A state law lets local police and prosecutors handle the cases.

The new version of the law crafted by Weiers spells out which foreigners can and cannot have a weapon.

Unless a foreigner has immigrant status, meaning a permanent legal resident, the presumption would be that person cannot have a gun.

HB2486 does have exceptions for foreigners who come here to hunt, if they have an Arizona hunting permit. Exceptions are also provided for certain diplomats, foreign officials who have permission from the U.S. State Department and law enforcement officers from "friendly foreign governments" here on official law enforcement business.

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