Gun shows that are held on property owned or managed by the city of Tucson - namely the Tucson Convention Center - must conduct background checks for every sale.
The City Council acted in the interest of public safety when it voted unanimously to support the change Tuesday.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors should follow Tucson's example.
The move, which the City Council approved unanimously on Tuesday, does not ban sales within the city limits. It does not affect sales at pawnshops or secondhand stores, and it does not affect other private person-to-person sales.
It applies only to gun shows held on property that the city owns or manages in a proprietary way - namely the Tucson Convention Center. All sales must be preceded by a background check, to ensure that the buyer is not a "prohibited possessor" who cannot legally own a firearm.
People in this category include those with criminal record or who have been found by a court, broadly speaking, to be a danger to self or others because of severe mental illness.
Federal gun laws require background checks only if the seller is a licensed gun dealer - a person whose business is to sell firearms.
All other sales, including by individual owners selling their weapons at an organized gun show, do not require a check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The check itself can take just a few minutes.
Council members Steve Kozachik and Karin Uhlich introduced the proposal. The council is well aware that some Arizona Republican lawmakers will view the move as violating statutes that keep municipalities from passing their own gun-related ordinances that are more restrictive than state law.
The council members have come up with a legal footing, however, that makes sense. While private gun sales do not require a background check, it is still illegal for a prohibited-possessor to purchase a gun.
"The only way to determine if a person-to-person sale is legal is to do a background check," Kozachik said.
"This is taking away the chance for people who fail a background check to get a gun," he said.
The council also decided that if the measure is delayed by a lawsuit or other means, the city will not issue permits for gun shows on city-owned or -managed property until the issue is settled.
The council plans to formally adopt the change at its Feb. 20 meeting.
Federally licensed dealers are already required to run the checks, even at gun shows. So while it may be an inconvenience for unlicensed sellers, the safety benefit is worth it.
Putting up roadblocks to keep people who would fail a background check from easily buying a gun is sound public policy.
Arizona Daily Star