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House Democrat will push to revive two-gun control bills

arizona state capitol AP
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 21:50:48-04

PHOENIX — In the aftermath of the Texas School mass shooting, Democratic State Representative Jennifer Longdon is hoping to revive two-gun control bills in the closing days of the legislature. During the session, Democrats proposed 12 bills they believe limit gun violence. The Republican majority never scheduled hearings for any of them.

"There is nothing that stops us from doing it other than the will of the majority," Representative Longdon (D) Phoenix District 24 said.

Longdon's proposals include putting a mandatory background check for all gun sales on the ballot so voters, not lawmakers can decide the issue. According to an everytown.org poll nearly 90% of Arizonans support background checks. The other proposal requires a person give up their concealed weapons permit if they're convicted of a felony. 

"Screening these folks for a violent history, many of my colleagues here agree with it. But I can't get the bills heard. That's ridiculous." Longdon said. 

Arizona loves its guns. According to SafeHome.org nearly half a million firearms were purchased in Arizona in 2021. Two-gun measures have made it through the House and are waiting to go to the floor of the Senate. One expands the places concealed weapons permit holders can carry firearms. The other allows anyone driving on school grounds to legally have a loaded weapon in their car. 

Representative Longdon is no stranger to gun violence. She was paralyzed from a 2004 shooting. Since joining the legislature she has fought for gun safety legislation. On her desk, are pictures of Arizona children who were shot and killed along with letters from parents.

The Republican majority blocks most legislation dealing with gun safety. In 2018, a bill supported by Governor Ducey allowed parents, schools, police and mental health professionals to seek a court order to take away firearms from someone who is considered a threat to themselves or the community. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House.

"I would like to talk about violence," Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers said as he began his comments on the Uvalve, Texas school shooting Wednesday on the House floor. Since Bowers defended the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election armed protestors have often showed up outside his home. "Yes, he has the right to the gun as long as he wasn't on my property," Bowers said, "but how is it that as a culture our reactions are so violent that we seek and worship and pay for and be entertained by violence to such a degree? I just want you to know if it were possible to take the pain away, I would," the speaker said.

Representative Longdon hopes to meet with Bowers and other House leaders next week and offer a way that may not take the pain away, just reduce the chance something like it will happen here. "I'm gonna push," Longdon says.

UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS

According to a poll by Quinnipiac on the issues of gun safety or changes, there is one area most Americans agree upon and that is Universal Gun Background Checks.

Quinnipiac found in 2019, “American voters support 94 – 4 percent requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Gun owners support universal background checks 90 – 9 percent,” the poll read.

There is a bill, HR 8, on Universal Background checks that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 that tighten gun sales regulations by expanding background checks.

All four Arizona Republican Representatives voted no. That includes Rep. Debbie Lesko, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. David Schweikert, Rep. Paul Gosar.

The bill now sits in the Senate, but has yet to be voted upon.

ABC15 reached out to ask our current Senators and those running for Senate this year if they would support Universal Background checks.

Senator Sinema spoke with Capitol reporters on Wednesday, “I think every parent across the country is incredibly scared for their kids, scared to send their kids to school, scared to not see them again. And despite the fact there is always heated rhetoric here in DC, I do think there is an opportunity for us to actually have real conversations and try and do something. I think the conversation across America is very different than it was here. People at home, all across America, are just scared. They want us to do something. And so I’m going to start having conversations again with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to determine whether or not there’s something we can actually do to help increase safety and protect kids across this country.

There are some things we can do. There’s some shared agreement on red flag which I think might be a place to start conversations to actually get something done that would make a difference to people… The conversations should be about what can we do to help increase safety, what can we do to protect kids?”

Her office added she supports commonsense policies, including:

  • expand the current background check system
  • lengthen the amount of time to complete background checks to ensure their accuracy
  • deny terrorists access to dangerous firearms and explosives
  • expand access to behavioral health services
  • expand mental health first aid training for first responders and school staff
  • conduct scientific research to help understand and reduce the causes of gun violence
  • develop a national strategy for preventing indiscriminate predatory violence, and help ensure that state and local law enforcement have the same resources used by federal agencies like the FBI and Secret Service for identifying and preventing violence
  • prohibit those convicted of domestic violence, those convicted of misdemeanor stalking, and those subject to protective orders from former partners from possessing firearms

Senator Kelly’s responded by saying yes, he supports background checks, even adding that Kelly is a cosponsor of the background checks expansion act https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/529/cosponsors [congress.gov]

As for candidates for Senate for 2022, only two responded:

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s campaign said, “Our hearts should be with the grieving families and devastated Uvalde community in Texas right now. I hope everyone will reflect on our humanity instead of racing to politicize such a heartbreaking tragedy.”

And, General Mick McGuire’s campaign wrote, “Background checks are already required for all commercial gun sales nationwide. What Democrats are referring to with 'universal background checks' is the criminalization of private gun sales between individuals; including between family members. I am not in favor of such legislation. Outlawing private sales of firearms would not have prevented the Buffalo or the Uvalde shooters from acquiring firearms. Both shooters purchased their guns commercially and were required to pass background checks. There is clearly a mental health crisis among our young men in this country, and two years of isolation has only exacerbated it. No new background check or firearm restriction will solve this crisis."