Legislation pushes gun control issues back into spotlight - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Legislation pushes gun control issues back into spotlight

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Posted: Monday, April 25, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:29 pm, Mon May 2, 2011.

The issue of gun control has once again come to the surface, in light of several bills passed by the state Legislature before the session ended.

SB 1467, which would have permitted guns to be carried on the public right-of-ways of school campuses, and SB 1201, the "firearms omnibus" that would allow guns in public buildings, cleared both houses this session.

The governor vetoed SB 1467 because it was "poorly written," but has not given any indication on whether she will sign or veto SB 1201.

These pieces of legislation prompted fierce debate over where guns should and should not be allowed as well as the type of regulations that can be imposed on them.

"There is a right both under the Arizona constitution and the U.S. Constitution to bear arms. Nobody knows exactly what that means," said Paul Bender, a constitutional law professor and former dean of Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. "Nobody knows exactly what the arms are that you have a right to bear and nobody knows exactly what kind of regulation is possible."

Gun laws vary across the country. Chicago and Washington, D.C. had bans on handgun ownership before the Supreme Court ruled both unconstitutional. California makes all people who purchase firearms go through a background check. These strict laws are not the case in Arizona though.

According to a 2009 report card put together by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Arizona has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country.

The state received two points out of 100, signifying Arizona's lack of regulations.

No points were gained in the curb-firearm-trafficking, background check, child-safety and ban-military-assault-weapons categories.

The two points Arizona did receive were for not allowing guns on college campuses.

This causes concern among advocates for tighter gun control, like state Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

"You start looking at some of the legislation and it's not about the Second Amendment; it's about public safety. It's about making sure guns are not in the hands of the bad guys. If you talk to folks who are gun owners, they'll agree with you," he said.

Gallardo talked about the need to close the gun show loophole in Arizona and advocated a ban on high-capacity magazines like the one prosecutors say Jared Loughner used in the Tucson shooting earlier this year.

A prohibition on high-capacity magazines has existed before. A part of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, made it illegal to sell high-capacity magazines that were manufactured after the ban was in place. An exception was made for law enforcement officials.

"Some of the measures that we are pushing and some of the measures we support, it has nothing to do with prohibiting a law-abiding citizen from owning a firearm. It's taking the guns away from the criminals," Gallardo said.

The measures that he and other gun control advocates are pushing are not necessarily unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has acknowledged the need for regulations and weapons that have more firepower fall under this category.

"The U.S. Supreme Court ... says you can have reasonable gun regulations. The guns or the arms that are protected by bearing arms is not everything you could use to kill something. It is limited in some ways to arms that are traditionally used for self-protection," Bender said.

Bazooka, machine guns and assault weapons don't likely fall under this category, he said.

But those who argue for looser gun laws don't see things this way. They argue that if more people are allowed to carry guns, there will be less crime because victims will have a means of self-defense.

"People try to make this a choice - you can either have the Second Amendment or you can have safety. I don't believe that at all. I believe we have the Second Amendment because it guarantees safety," said Daniel Crocker, the southwest director of Students for Concealed Carry.

Crocker and his organization specifically advocates for the ability to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus.

Of the campuses across the nation that allow firearms to be carried on school grounds, there have not been any problems, he said.

"We believe there is nothing so special about college campuses that you should be denied self-defense," Crocker said.

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