Forcing Businesses to Allow Guns May Expose State to Millions in Liability

Posted on June 22, 2009 | Type: In the News
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Phoenix--A Goldwater Institute attorney said today that H.B. 2474, which has passed the Arizona House of Representatives and awaits action by the Senate, could expose the State of Arizona to more than $263 million in claims for compensation from property owners.
 
The bill would forbid businesses from prohibiting employees or patrons from having guns in cars in private parking lots or garages. The guns must be locked and out of sight.
 
"This bill would deprive private businesses of an important facet of their property rights: the right to set the terms of conditions by which people can enter their property," declared Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Rights.
 
Under the Private Property Rights Protection Act, adopted in 2006 by Arizona voters as Proposition 207, property owners may be entitled to monetary compensation if the government regulates the use of their land in a way that diminishes the property value. Even if the law reduces business property values by only a tiny fraction, the Institute calculates compensation claims could amount to as much as $263 million, in addition to possible attorney fees. Because the Legislature would have enacted the law, the State would be responsible for payouts.
 
Earlier this year, the Institute filed claims against Maricopa County on behalf of approximately 175 property owners around Luke Air Force Base, seeking $20 million in compensation for a building permit moratorium. The county repealed the moratorium.
 
"The Goldwater Institute strongly supports the right to keep and bear arms," Bolick stated, adding that the Institute filed a brief in Heller v. District of Columbia, the U.S. Supreme Court case that strengthened Second Amendment rights. "But it is a right against government, not against private individuals. This bill does violence to private property rights."
 
Bolick said the Institute would offer to file compensation claims on behalf of business owners if the bill passes, and also will consider challenging the law's constitutionality. He added that if the sponsors amended the bill to allow property owners to ban guns if they post a notice, as was done with a similar bill involving restaurants (H.B. 2171), it would not trigger Prop. 207 liability. 

The Goldwater Institute is a nonprofit public policy research and litigation organization whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.

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