Tucson leader: Obama's executive actions could lead to changes at local level

Published: Jan. 5, 2016 at 5:56 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2016 at 7:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - President Barack Obama's executive actions on guns and background checks have some local political leaders watching closely.

Obama issued several guidelines Tuesday, Jan. 5, designed to strengthen background checks, promote gun safety and require dealers to report lost or stolen guns.

Tucson has an ordinance on the books already that requires people who lose their guns or have them stolen to report it to police within 48 hours.

Failure to do so could result in a $100 fine.

But the ordinance is not enforced.

Steve Kozachik, city councilman for Ward 6 and gun-control advocate, said fining someone for failing to report a stolen gun "is a tough law to enforce" because "we're kind of criminalizing the victim."

But Obama's actions give the city hope that some of its own actions in recent years will have more teeth and stand legal challenges.

Tucson also has an ordinance which requires background checks on person-to-person gun sales on city property.

This ordinance was aimed at the Tucson Convention Center, which generally hosted at least two gun shows a year.

While the gun shows can still operate in city limits, they cannot conduct person-to-person sales without a background check on city property.

The state lawmakers passed a bill this past year, HB 2527, which states only the state "can regulate the transfer of a firearm."

The city disagrees and could file a legal challenge if the state attempts to enforce it.

"I say bring it on," Kozachik said.

The shows have opted to move to the Pima County Fairgrounds instead of challenge the ordinance.

The city also passed a law which prohibits carrying a weapon in a city park, but that ordinance was challenged and also preempted by the Arizona state legislature.

Tucson has also passed an ordinance which allows police officers to require a breathalyzer test to a person who discharges a gun and is suspected of being intoxicated.

Again, state preemption does not allow it to be enforced.

Arizona Attorney General at the time, Tom Horne, issued an opinion that states Tucson "has a right to pass the laws" but they are "unenforceable" because they are preempted by the the state.

However, Obama's action may give the city reason to believe there could be changes coming.

"We'll be watching the litigation closely," Kozachik said. "I hope they preempt state law so the state can no longer tell the city of Tucson level that we cannot implement those ordinances."

If the Obama administration prevails, Kozachik said he believes "it will open the door for use to make some changes at the local level."

Arizona Senator John McCain said he feels the city is misguided if it believes stricter legislation will alleviate the problem.

"I think they're mistaken if they think they should imitate California, which is what they're talking about," McCain said. "The San Bernardino attack took place in the state with the strictest gun laws in existence."

While McCain feels the president's actions violate the Constitution and "are harmful," he does not rule out the possibility of taking on background checks in the future.

"As long as they don't encroach on people's right to privacy, they we ought to look at the background checks issue," he said. "I would not be opposed to examining that issue."

For the time being, the city of Tucson will not be pro-active, but will watch how the president's order does in the court of law.

"I'm certainly hopeful that the president's executive orders prevail in court because it will open the door for us to make some common sense changes at the local level," Kozachik said.

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