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Arizona Republicans vote against law requiring background checks to buy guns

Firearms salesman Nathan Williams at the Outdoorsman gun shop in Santa Fe, N.M.. Since the previous administration, background checks have fallen from year-ago levels.
File photo.
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Firearms salesman Nathan Williams at the Outdoorsman gun shop in Santa Fe, N.M.. Since the previous administration, background checks have fallen from earlier levels.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona Senate Republicans quashed a bid Tuesday to force a vote on legislation to forbid people from buying weapons unless they first have a background check.
The party-line vote came on a bid by Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, to get a roll-call vote on his SB 1546. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who chairs that panel, never agreed to even give it a hearing.
So Quezada used a procedural motion to waive the requirement for a committee hearing and demand the measure be brought immediately to the full Senate for a vote.
Only thing is, first it had to survive a vote to waive the rules. And none of the Republicans who control the Senate agreed to support that move, shutting down any chance of debate.
Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to run a background check on would-be buyers before completing a purchase. But none of that covers person-to-person sales.
More to the point, that exception applies to sales made at gun shows, where individuals can bring their collection of weapons to sell to those in attendance. Quezada called that an unacceptable "loophole'' given the number of mass shootings.
A series of surveys have shown strong support for universal background checks. Most recently that included a poll from Morning Consult and Politico, conducted one day after the killing of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Tex. which found 81% said they want to make private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.
Petersen, in explaining his opposition to bringing the bill to the floor, said the restriction would stop law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves.
"Criminals do not follow laws,'' he said. "It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.''
Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, called that "utter nonsense.''
"There was an entire parking lot of police officers that didn't even approach the building because of the type of firearm this guy had,'' he said. She said there were dozens of "good guys'' with guns standing outside the Texas school and that didn't stop the killing.
"Bring something that will work,'' said Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, in opposition to what Quezada wanted. He cited the number of shootings in Chicago which have some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
But Quezada said Republicans appear ready to blame anything -- and everything -- other than access to guns, calling them "regurgitated gun lobby talking points.''
"I was especially troubled by one specific diversion tactic that we saw members cling to for dear life last week,'' he said. "That was this latest mass shooting, and mass shootings in general, are happening because God has been taken out of our schools or because we don't pray enough in schools, and because our nation has drifted too far from its Christian founding.''
That refers to comments by Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, R-Sun City, who said that mass shootings occur because children can't pray in school.
Rios said foes of additional gun regulations always seem to have a litany of reasons there are mass shootings, like video games and mental illness.
"Fact of the matter is, every other country in the world suffers with people that have mental illness,'' Rios said.
"Every other country in the world has video games. Every other country in the world has religion or lack thereof,'' she continued. "Those are all red herrings.''
But Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said what is lost in all this is that the Texas shooter purchased his firearms from licensed gun dealers. He called the argument that requiring universal background checks "a myth and a smokescreen.''
Borrelli also pointed out that SB 1546 would apply not only to sales at gun shows. It also would prohibit him from giving a weapon to a former stepson as the exception for relatives would not apply unless the sale were first run through a licensed gun dealer to conduct a background check on the recipient.
"It's just more government interaction,'' he said.
Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, pointed out that the Quezada bill was not the only one denied a hearing. She said the Republican-controlled Senate also refused to consider SB 1538 which would have made it a crime to fail to do things a reasonable person would do to prevent a minor from accessing a firearm.
While GOP lawmakers have refused to consider new gun restrictions, they have voted for measures to protect gun rights, like allowing people to drive onto school campuses without having to first unload a firearm.
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On Twitter: @azcapmedia