Gun shows could be a thing of the past at the Tucson Convention Center if Councilman Steve Kozachik gets his way.
Kozachik wants to prohibit gun shows on city property until either the state Legislature or the U.S. Congress passes a bill requiring background checks for every gun sale.
"Continuing to allow person-to-person gun sales without the requirement of any background checks is a clear threat to the health and safety of the community. If any place has a right to be sensitive about that, Tucson does," Kozachik said.
"It's my belief, and I'm hearing it daily now, that we should take a leadership position in saying "no" to gun shows on public property," until that loophole is closed, he said.
Federal law requires licensed firearm dealers to conduct background checks, but private sales, regardless of where the transactions occur, are unregulated.
Kozachik will introduce the plan at the next council meeting, Feb. 5, to take effect immediately, if he can get it approved.
The move will affect a single company - Phoenix-based McMann Roadrunner Gun Show - which holds about three shows a year at the TCC.
Owner Lori McMann said she doesn't understand why the city would want to keep her out of the TCC.
"They don't have any basis to not rent to us. We've had no rule violations or any law violations," McMann said. "I don't know why they would be proposing this since it has already been defeated once."
"A city cannot make a law that supersedes state or federal law," she said.
The legal challenge McMann referred to was a lawsuit filed years ago by her parents, Pat and Joan McMann, over a city ordinance that required instant background checks on all firearm purchases at gun shows held at the TCC.
Although an appeals court ruled in favor of the city in 2002, City Attorney Mike Rankin said the state Legislature has amended state law to block the city from mandating the checks.
That law notwithstand- ing, Rankin said the Tucson retains its right as a charter city to "decide how to operate our Convention Center, including deciding how the property will be used, and specifically whether it will be used for gun shows."
Further, Rankin said he believes the city could still mandate background checks but would have to sue to challenge the state law, which he believes would be successful.
Todd Rathner, lobbyist for the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association and national board member of the National Rifle Association, said Kozachik's proposal is not only hostile to gun owners, it will have zero impact on keeping guns away from the mentally unstable.
"The insistence of the Tucson City Council to attack law-abiding gun owners and their ability to peaceably assemble is disheartening," Rathner wrote in an email. "None of the firearms used by madmen in recent tragedies were purchased at gun shows. Why would the City Council target a legitimate, legal, tax-paying business that has nothing to do with those recent tragedies? It's simply illogical."
Kozachik said he isn't under the delusion this is a panacea. It's merely a first step.
"If somebody thinks it's a good thing to be able to walk up to a person on the street, hand him a wad of cash and walk away with a gun without having to go through any sort of background clearance, then I'm of the opinion that that person is simply not interested or able to engage this topic in a rational manner," Kozachik said. "This is the low-hanging fruit in the discussion. Let's at least agree on the easy stuff and hold the disagreements for the more controversial parts of the issue of gun control. This isn't one of those."
Kozachik said he would like the county to consider a similar measure for gun shows held at the Pima County Fairgrounds.
County officials were less enamored with the idea.
"We wouldn't be inclined to tell our Southwest Fair Commission what to do," County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said. "The Board of Supervisors has not been inclined to tell them what to do or get in their business. And I think that's appropriate … and I wouldn't recommend that we start telling them what to do."
The city stands to lose around $15,000 per gun show if the ban is enacted. Over the past three years, McMann's gun show has generated $128,380 in direct revenue to the TCC.
Beyond that, McMann said each show brings in about 50 to 60 vendors along with their families and employees, which translates into a lot of hotel rooms and restaurant meals.
"I don't know why the city would want to lose that," she said.
"The public health and safety is worth more than the money that might come in," Kozachik responded.
McMann said in their zeal to limit gun shows and gun sellers, council members could end up hurting countless other businesses, since about 40 percent of the vendors at gun shows don't even sell firearms.
"These lawmakers and City Council people, it doesn't even cross their minds the large percentage of other small businesses that will be put out of business," she said. "They are just focused on getting rid of guns. I've never seen a gun walking out the front door going off to shoot people. The guns are not the problem."
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org