City officials prepared to go to bat for background checks

CREATED Jan. 17, 2013

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Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The city of Tucson is going to bat, in the battle over background checks, ready for legal curveballs to be pitched their way.

The goal: to ban gun shows on all city owned property until those background checks are made mandatory. 

But is the city jumping the gun?

Arizona law prohibits any municipality from enacting stricter gun laws than those set by the state.

Turns out, when it comes to side stepping that statute, the city has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Area gun owners were already weary of Washington.

"I'm not sure the federal government has the jurisdiction to enact that particular part of his plan,” said Ken Rineer, president of Gun Owners of Arizona.

"A lot of what they're talking about is bypassing the second amendment and our constitutional bill of rights as a whole,” said Black Weapons Armory owner Tommy Rompel.

So when city councilman Steve Kozachik announced his plan to call on council to ban gun shows on city property until mandatory background checks were put in place, the call to arms was almost immediate.

In a news release to 9OYS, 'Gun Owners of Arizona', argued the move "…violates federal and state constitutions".

But does it?

Kozachik says “no”, calling the measure, one of “public health & safety”.

City attorney Mike Rankin also says “no”, but for a different reason

"The city, as a charter city, does have the authority to decide for itself how its own property can be used or not used,” he said.

Rankin refers to a precedent set in 2002, when the city voted to require background checks at all gun shows at TCC.

The move was challenged, and eventually upheld in the court of appeals.

And while it's been done before, Rankin tells us he wouldn't be surprised if it happens again.

"The statute's been changed a number of times since then, and I could certainly forsee new arguments to say that somehow we're prohibited from doing this."

Council members backing Kozachik say, it's worth the risk.

“It makes no sense for the city to offer a venue for gun sales that are not in keeping with that desire of the general public,” said Karin Uhlich, of ward 1.

"At this point, I think we go ahead and make the law,” said ward 2 councilman Paul Cunningham.  “I think there will be some changes at the capitol level this year, about those firearm protections because some of them just don't make sense."

 

Another argument against Kozachik's proposal is that it will cost the city in lost revenue.
 
9OYS spoke to representatives from TCC.
 
They didn't have any hard revenue numbers, except that booking fees for these types of events is between $14,000-$16,000.