by Jim Nintzel
The Tucson City Council voted unanimously yesterday to advance a plan to require background checks on all gun purchases at gun shows at the Tucson Convention Center and other city-owned property.
“This is good policy for Tucson,” Councilman Paul Cunningham told The Range. “I hope other jurisdictions follow suit.”
Under current law, only federally licensed firearm dealers are required to conduct background checks when guns are purchased. People without licenses who want to sell their guns have no access to the background-check database. (For more on how the system works, check out last week’s feature story, “Background Noise.”)
The city attorney is expected to return within a few weeks with a legal language that would require, as a part of any lease for the TCC or other city property, background checks to be conducted on any gun sales.
The evening council meeting was packed with supporters of background checks, including Pam Simon, a former aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was among those shot on Jan. 8, and Patricia Maisch, who wrestled an extended magazine away from the shooter that day and prevented him from reloading his gun.
“This is an absolutely wonderful first step,” Simon said. “Overwhelmingly, Americans believe the gun-show loophole should be closed.”
After the meeting, Roadrunner Gun Show manager Lori McMann said she’d move two or three gun shows she does each year at the TCC to the privately owned Tucson Expo Center. She already does a few shows there each year.
She estimates she pays the city around $20,000 per show. The city will also lose out on parking revenues and other related benefits from having the show at the TCC, such as the use of TPD special-duty officers as security at the show.
She said federal and local law-enforcement will no longer have the ability to keep an eye on the show from an upstairs vantage point at the TCC.
“They can see the entire floor and everything that goes on at that show all weekend,” McMann said.
McMann compared Arizona to California, where she also produces gun shows. California has a system that allows for background checks on all sales at gun shows.
“It runs very smoothly,” said McMann, who said the state regulates gun shows and requires licenses for businesses that produce them. When unlicensed firearm dealers sell guns, buyers have to go through a 10-day waiting period and a background check.
“They spent millions of dollars setting that up and a whole lot of time,” McMann said.
The Arizona Legislature has generally backed laws that prevent jurisdictions from conducting background checks.
McMann doesn’t expect to take legal action against the city to force them to drop the requirement for background checks.
“We can’t afford legal action at this time and I don’t believe the NRA or Gun Owners of America plans on picking up any tab for that at this point,” McMann said.