The Tucson City Council will weigh a proposal Tuesday that could change local gun laws by either requiring background checks for all gun sales on city-owned or city-leased property, or eliminating gun shows on city property.
Democratic City Council members Steve Kozachik and Karin Uhlich are proposing adding background checks to all gun sales at gun shows, something not required by state or federal laws. The two say if that can't be done, the council should ban gun shows on city-owned or -managed property. That would include the Tucson Convention Center.
“It’s really pretty simple. All we’re saying is that if you’re going to use city property for a gun show, we want everybody who participates to go through a background check," Kozachik said. "Right now if you’re a federally licensed dealer you have to do that.
"This levels the playing field, and it says if you’re just doing a person-to-person sale we want to know that the person making the purchase is legally entitled to make the purchase, they don’t have felonies in their background or other issues that would cause them not to be able to do that.”
Uhlich said she thinks this issue should longer be up for debate.
“Ninety percent of the public supports uniform and universal background checks and in fact the majority of NRA (National Rifle Association) members support it," Uhlich said. "It’s a reasonable measure and until we see something implemented ideally at the federal level, we need to as elected officials represent the will of the people."
State law prevents cities from passing local gun laws that are stricter than state gun laws. Kozachik’s and Uhlich's proposal to require background checks could violate that law. Kozachik said, however, the state cannot force the city to allow gun sales to people who may not pass a background check.
“We were precluded by the state Legislature a year ago from adopting ordinances that are more restrictive than state law. We get that," he said. But, "the state can’t compel us to be complicit in an illegal activity and that is to say selling a firearm to somebody who’s not legally entitled to make that purchase.”
Requiring background checks on all gun sales on city property is "low hanging fruit," an easy measure to pass, Kozachik said. Uhlich said there are communities throughout the country considering similar measures.
“Certainly there are some cities at the forefront, I think Tucson is one of those," she said.
Kozachik and Uhlich said they are prepared for legal challenges if their proposal is approved. They said if the city is sued, all gun sales on city property should cease until a case is decided in court.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its study session, starting at 2 p.m.Tuesday.