Vote for universal background checks

Molly McKasson has been working on sensible gun laws since her days on the city council in the 1990s. She is a member of Citizens for a Safer Pima County. This article was published in the September 8, 2022, edition of the Arizona Daily Star.

In several weeks, the gun show returns to the Pima County Fairgrounds. A good third of the vendors will be “private sellers” (though few are “hobbyists” selling “private collections”) and therefore not required by federal law to do background checks. That means hundreds of potentially deadly weapons will be sold to anyone with enough cash or a bank card.

Time and again, national research has shown what law enforcement knows too well: Gun shows are prime venues for prohibited buyers. Although no one will be keeping track, it’s very likely illegal gun buys and straw purchases in Pima County will increase that weekend.

Citing the steady rise in suicide and gun violence, individuals and groups like Citizens for a Safer Pima County, have lobbied for years to make universal background checks a requirement for all guns sold at the county-owned fairgrounds. Tragically, as gun deaths in Arizona have gotten worse, our state gun laws have gotten weaker. As the epidemic of gun violence continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, our Republican legislators seem bent on dragging us back to territorial days when everyone was armed.

Fortunately, Pima County has elected officials who put public safety above all else. Unfortunately, with our state Legislature no common-sense gun regulation goes unpunished.

In 2013, after Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik succeeded in getting the City Council to require universal background checks at all Tucson Convention Center gun shows, the majority in Phoenix banned any jurisdiction from passing gun regulations exceeding the state’s nearly nonexistent ones. Still, Kozachik and Mayor Regina Romero have continued to speak out for gun safety.

Before his untimely death, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías worked very hard to ensure that no illegal guns were ever sold at the fairgrounds. Since then, Supervisors Rex Scott, Adelita Grijalva and Matt Heinz have sought to find ways to challenge the state law. They understand that universal background checks make us more, not less, free, allowing us to shop and pray, go to school and play without as much fear of gun violence.

Just last month, Scott, with the support of Grijalva and Heinz, proposed a resolution that challenges the state’s preemptive gun laws which prohibit any jurisdiction from passing regulations to protect its own citizens.

Disturbingly, the state is not just interested in preempting local jurisdictions.

In 2021, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law the Second Amendment Firearm Freedom Act, officially making Arizona a Second Amendment “sanctuary state.” This law gives our legislators the right to preempt the federal government itself! They can decide that the recently passed national Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a Second Amendment threat, and will not be enforced in Arizona. They can continue to protect gun owners more than school children.

Negative as all this seems, the upcoming elections offer a huge opportunity for positive change. We can vote against those candidates whose ads and rhetoric celebrate weapons of war on our streets, and the rampant spread of unregistered guns. These candidates make Arizona appear to be an unsafe place to raise a family, retire or relocate a business. They ignore glaring facts: Arizona has the 19th highest rate of gun deaths in the country, with a rate of 15.6 deaths per 100,000. The national rate is 12.2 deaths per 100,000, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

The majority of Arizonans, regardless of party, support universal background checks. It’s time to let our politicians and candidates know where we stand. Time to ensure that the proliferation of senseless gun violence is not the dark future we offer our children and grandchildren.

This fall, it’s time to elect people who will change Arizona’s backward and dangerous gun laws, and add our state to the 22 others in the union where sensible gun regulations create a thriving and safe society for all.

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