Proposed Arizona bill would put a ban on banning gun shows
A bill that already garnered approval in the state Senate would bar Arizona municipalities from banning gun shows. One of the bill’s proponents warned the legislature could “make lives unpleasant” for municipalities that choose to do so, even if the bill never becomes law.
Bob Templeton, owner of the Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, is an advocate of Senate Bill 1428, telling the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that his show and others have been denied the usage of city and county-owned facilities to host their gun shows.
Crossroads of the West hosted its most recent Arizona show March 4 and 5 and has numerous additional shows planned for the Valley and Tucson throughout the rest of the year, including at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson and the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.
Republican Rep. Cory McGarr, of Marana, said that municipalities should not be able to infringe on Arizonans’ Second Amendment rights.
“The people own the facilities,” he said of municipally-owned venues. “For them to take that and use fit or political purposes is disgusting.”
But Democratic Rep. Analise Ortiz, of Phoenix, countered that cities and municipalities should have the discretion to decide what kinds of businesses use their facilities, especially when there are safety concerns.
Democratic Vice Chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors Rex Scott told the Mirror that the board has no plans to attempt to ban gun shows in the county, but that some members were concerned that private sellers at Crossroads shows did not have to perform background checks on buyers during sales made at the Pima County Fairgrounds.
Because of these concerns, last year the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to ask the legislature to repeal an existing state law that bans local gun ordinances that are more restrictive than state law. The board also last year approved a resolution instructing the county attorney’s office to start working on a legal challenge to the state law. It hasn’t yet pursued the challenge as the county waits for legal action in other states to play out, Scott said.
Templeton told the House Judiciary Committee that gun shows had been banned from the Tucson Convention Center and that Scottsdale’s Westworld had turned down a request from a gun show operator, saying it “wasn’t appropriate” for the venue.
The city of Scottsdale developed and operates Westworld, but the venue is constructed on federal land, city spokeswoman Holly Walter told the Mirror. The city uses the land where Westworld sits through an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which prohibits firearms on its land, Walter said.
The city of Tucson has not placed an outright ban on gun shows at its convention center, but has placed restrictions that have pushed show operators to other venues.
Tucson in 2013 voted to require — as part of its lease agreement — background checks for all gun sales that take place during shows at the center. Background checks are already required for federally licensed dealers, but not for private sellers. Tucson added another stipulation in 2016, banning weapons capable of firing 10 rounds or more from being sold at the venue.
In response to the bill and its backers’ criticism of Tucson, Mayor Regina Romero said that the legislators should shift their focus to other issues.
“Legislators should focus on funding public education, finding solutions for affordable housing, ensuring our water security and keeping our communities safe in partnership with cities and towns across our state,” Romero said in a statement. “Arizonans want solutions, not imaginary and divisive issues that don’t align with their values.”
Cheryl Todd, the Arizona director of the DC Project, a group of women dedicated to safeguarding the right to keep bear arms, and the owner of a small gun sales business told the committee that the “ugliness of discrimination is alive and well” for the owners of gun sales businesses.
“It has been my personal experience that some actually believe discrimination is perfectly fine when that discrimination is based in political ideation,” Todd said, adding that gun sales businesses are often “shunned.”
Todd told the committee she supported the bill because it would keep municipalities from telling her to “know my place and stay where I belong.”
Anti-gun groups have lobbied Pima County to stop gun shows at the Pima County Fairgrounds, but the county attorney’s office instructed the county board last year that it had “little authority” to stop the Southwestern Fair Commission, which operates the grounds, from allowing gun shows at the fairgrounds.
Scott said he appreciates Crossroads’ willingness to work with the county to allow the County Attorney’s Office to pass out gun locks at its shows and to share safety measures that gun owners can implement in their homes. He added that Crossroads also makes an effort to identify and stop disreputable buyers from purchasing firearms at its shows.
Rep. Alexander Kolodin, a Scottsdale Republican, cautioned municipalities that might consider banning gun shows that even if Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes this bill, the Republicans, who have a slight majority in the legislature, still control the state budget.
“I would encourage municipalities that are thinking about imposing these kinds of restrictions or putting pressure directly or indirectly on venues to curtail the right to keep and bear arms, keep in mind, we can make your life very, very difficult,” he said.
The bill passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 5-3 along party lines. It next heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.