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Hobbs vetoes bills increasing sentences for fentanyl, legalizing silencers

By: - April 11, 2023 3:12 pm

Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference. Photo by Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed five bills Tuesday, including one that critics argued would have made having one fentanyl pill amount to intent to sell and another bill that would have removed silencers from the state’s prohibited weapon’s list.  

Although Senate Bill 1027 was positioned as a way to enhance penalties for people who manufacture fentanyl and similar drugs around children, the measure also included sweeping changes to laws criminalizing possession of fentanyl, heroin and other opioids. Among other things, it would have created lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for drug users, similar to laws already on the books for methamphetamine possession and use. 


Last week, Hobbs signed a bill that continues the state’s “Good Samaritan” law, which allows for a person who calls emergency services for an overdose to not be charged or prosecuted for possession of drugs. In her veto letter, she said that SB1027 conflicts with that law. 

Fentanyl in Arizona has seen a boom in recent years. Recently, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, along with members of the Tempe Police Department, announced a seizure of 4.5 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills largely produced and distributed by the Sinaloa drug cartel. 

The drug has also overtaken heroin for the first time as the most-trafficked drug across the U.S.-Mexico border. In Pima County, health officials have begun to distribute test strips to help residents determine if their drugs contain fentanyl.

“I encourage the legislature to send me a narrower bill that focuses on the manufacturer of fentanyl,” Hobbs said in her veto letter

Hobbs also vetoed Senate Bill 1109, by Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, which sought to get ahead of possible future federal legislation on gun laws. Silencers and muzzle suppressors are legal in Arizona, though they are considered a class 3 firearm, which requires a special license. Rogers’ bill removed existing state law that conforms with federal guidelines around the equipment.

Silencers are available to gun owners in the United States, but they have to be registered to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and get approval with the agency. There were 28,942 registered silencers in Arizona in 2016 and more than 1 million registered nationwide. However, state law disallows such devices.

“Gun silencers have long been prohibited weapons in Arizona, along with fully-automatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns,” Hobbs said in her veto letter. “Legalizing silencers, or any other weapon that is currently on the ‘prohibited weapon’ list, will make Arizona less safe.” 

Hobbs also vetoed a bill aimed at creating harsher penalties for those who interfere with a utility and make them liable for the costs. 

The measure, House Bill 2212, allowed people who interfere with or prevent the function of utility infrastructure to be charged with aggravated criminal damage. The bill came on the heels of a slew of attacks on substations across the country in Washington and North Carolina that have left many without power and caused millions of dollars in damages. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, mentioned the attacks as a reason for creating the bill to take a “proactive stance” about the national issue. 

Deliberate attacks on substations are not entirely a new phenomenon. In 2013, a California substation was attacked by a team of gunmen — a crime that remained unsolved. Far-right extremists have been discussing attacking substations increasingly since at least 2020 and, prior to the North Carolina attack, the Department of Homeland Security issued a security bulletin addressing the threat, according to reporting by CNN.  

CNN also reported that a 14-page document released in an online space favored by neo-Nazis who aspire to accelerate the downfall of the United States government included a guide on how to attack substations. The Arizona Mirror obtained a copy of this document, as well as another 200-page document with detailed instructions on how to disrupt critical infrastructure. 

That larger document specifically mentions the 2013 substation attack as inspiration within its opening paragraphs. A neo-Nazi was caught in a plot to commit an attack at a substation in Baltimore and the man at the center of the plot discussed the North Carolina attack with a confidential informant prior to his arrest earlier this year. 

In her veto letter, Hobbs said that the bill did “little to deter threats to our critical facilities.” 

“What’s more, this conduct is already covered by several state and federal laws, making this bill unnecessary,” Hobbs said.


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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.