Brewer defends Arizona firearm sales at gun shows - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Brewer defends Arizona firearm sales at gun shows

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Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011 11:07 am | Updated: 3:56 pm, Tue Feb 1, 2011.

Gov. Jan Brewer is defending Arizona laws which allow the sale of firearms at gun shows without a background check and forbid cities from imposing such requirements.

"We believe our laws are fair and just in the state of Arizona,'' the governor said Monday.

Her comments come on the heels of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg releasing videos Monday taken by undercover agents at a Phoenix gun show just 15 days after the Tucson shootings. There, Arizona private investigators hired by New York City were able to purchase weapons not only without a background check but, at least twice, after admitting to sellers they probably would not pass.

Brewer said she had not seen the videos. Nor had she seen Bloomberg's comments.

But the governor said the laws are "something that the Legislature and I decide.''

Last year Brewer signed legislation making Arizona only the third state in the nation to let anyone carry a concealed weapon without a state permit, training and a background check. But Brewer said Monday she remains open to further liberalizing the state's gun laws.

"I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment,'' she said.

One of the measures awaiting debate this session, SB 1201, would further expand where individuals can carry guns to include public buildings unless there were metal detectors and lockers for owners to secure their weapons. Brewer said she hasn't studied that measure and would have to see the final version before deciding whether to sign it.

"We're strong people in Arizona,'' she continued. "We believe in the Constitution and we certainly support the Second Amendment.''

Bloomberg is not looking to change Arizona law.

"He's looking for a federal fix,'' said spokesman Jason Post. That, he said, would supersede Arizona laws.

It also would close what Bloomberg considers a loophole in federal laws.

While gun dealers must conduct background checks, those laws do not require background checks for the person-to-person sale of weapons by individuals. But it does prohibit anyone from selling a gun to another person who there is "reasonable cause'' to believe is not legally entitled to have one.

In two videos released by Bloomberg, a buyer at the Crossroads of the West gun show on Jan. 23 in Phoenix specifically asked sellers if they were dealers and said, "I probably couldn't pass one.''

"I just need an ID and money,'' one seller is shown saying on the video.

"We have demonstrated how easy it is for anyone to buy a semiautomatic handgun and a high capacity magazine, no questions asked,'' Bloomberg said in a prepared release. "Congress should act now.''

Short of that, Post said Bloomberg wants gun show promoters who stage these events around the country to mandate that merchants do background checks on prospective buyers.

Post said that followed similar undercover buys staged by New York officials in 2009 in Tennessee, Ohio and Nevada.

"Four of the seven gun shows we investigated in 2009 have agreed to make that reform, and there is no doubt it will save lives,'' Bloomberg said in his statement.

Nothing in federal law precludes states or cities from having more restrictive laws on the sale and possession of guns.

Arizona, however, does not have such additional restrictions. In fact, lawmakers voted in 2000 to bar cities from imposing their own requirements on those using their facilities for gun shows.

That was in direct response to a Tucson ordinance approved following a triple murder in 1999 at an east side Pizza Hut. Council members voted to impose that condition on groups that lease space in the Tucson Convention Center.

The state Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that law was flawed. But legislators have since remedied that with a comprehensive ban on local regulations of any kind.

On the other side of the equation, a Senate panel in 2001 killed legislation which would have required those selling weapons at gun shows to do an instant background check through the state Department of Public Safety prior to making a sale.

Despite that, state Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, filed SB 1586 late Monday making it a crime to sell a weapon at a gun show without running a national instant background check. Violators would be subject to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine; gun show operators who do not make a licensed dealer available who can do those checks would face a $10,000 civil fine.

No one from the Crossroads of the West, the company that operated the Phoenix gun show and others in Tucson and elsewhere, would agree to be interviewed. Instead, the company issued a release saying that law enforcement at all shows "is conducted on a regular basis.''

The statement also said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms "regularly has several undercover agents enforcing federal law at the Phoenix show, and state and local law-enforcement agencies work cooperatively with BATF and other agencies to ensure that activities at the show are legal.'' It also said sellers agreed to comply with federal gun laws.

The statement also blasted Bloomberg for conducting the undercover operation.

"These forays into America's heartland committing blatant acts to entrap otherwise innocent gun owners is an unlawful scheme that is created by Bloomberg's task force,'' the statement reads. "The result of the task force's illegal activity is the entrapment of individuals by involving them in a crime which the 'investigators' themselves actually initiated and committed.''

Post said that New York City hired Arizona private investigators to meet the requirement for those purchasing weapons at gun shows in Arizona to provide legal Arizona identification.

The company had a gun show in Tucson the week after the Jan. 8 shootings. Another Tucson show is planned by the company for March 12 and 13 at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

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