Guns: State lawmaker seeks to ban high-capacity magazines

PHOENIX -- A key Tucson legislative Democrat wants to make it a crime for Arizonans to buy a high-capacity ammunition magazine.

"I don't think anybody needs a weapon of war on the streets of Arizona,' said Linda Lopez, the assistant Senate minority leader. Her measure, set to be unveiled Thursday, would also outlaw both the possession and transfer of any such clip, defined as capable of holding 10 or more rounds.

But Lopez said anyone who already has such a magazine would not be subject to criminal penalties.

The issue of high-capacity magazines jumped into the gun debate again last month with the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Adam Lanza had a rifle with a 30-round capacity when he killed 20 children and six adults.

Lopez said James Holmes, accused of last year's killings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, also had a high-capacity magazine. And, closer to home, Jared Loughner outfitted his pistol with a high-capacity clip before killing six in Tucson in 2011 and seriously wounding Gabrielle Giffords.

The proposal will run into stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association. Board member Todd Rathner said he does not see how such a ban would save lives, as nothing in the law would preclude someone from carrying multiple clips.

"If you just practice in your bedroom you could learn to switch magazines quickly,' he said. Anyway, he said, there is no reason to limit the ability of people to arm themselves.

"The individual citizen needs to be able to own the tools that the average military person would carry in combat,' Rathner said. "That's what the Second Amendment is all about.'

Rathner sidestepped the question of whether the NRA believes individuals should be able to have fully automatic weapons.

"Where I would draw the line and where someone else might draw the line would be different,' he said. Anyway, he said, the military does not make fully automatic weapons part of the standard issue for soldiers because they are so difficult to control. Instead, Rathner said, weapons are set to create a three-round "burst' of bullets.

But he said the civilian version of a semiautomatic firearm "is exactly the type of weapon the Second Amendment was meant to protect.'

"And they've got to be able to have the load capacity as the average military person,' he continued. "Why? Because the Second Amendment is about repelling a tyrannical government, not about hunting.'

Lopez said the details of her plan are still being worked out with groups like Arizonans for Gun Safety. And she conceded there are questions she could not answer at this point.

For example, she acknowledged Arizonans could go to another state that has no such restriction and buy one. That would make the only method of enforcing her ban to actually check people driving into the state.

"We have to start somewhere,' she said. "I can't control what they do in New Mexico.'

Lopez is not alone among Democrats in proposing new regulations.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, proposed that any weapon sold at a gun show be subject to background checks.

Campbell's proposal also includes:

- More money for schools to hire "resource officers' -- armed police officers -- for security;

- Increased funding to treat the mentally ill;

- Allowing local governments to melt down weapons obtained through court order rather than having to sell them to dealers.

And Campbell wants to repeal a 2010 law that allows any adult to carry a concealed weapon. That would return Arizona to the days when that right was reserved only for those with a state-issued permit and who had been through certain training and a background check.

The issue of gun show sales has been on the national radar amid charges that those who cannot pass the legally required background check instead choose to get their guns from these commercial shows.

Federal law exempts person-to-person sales from the required background check. And that has been interpreted to include sales made by gun owners of their own weapons at gun shows.

Campbell's proposal, if approved, would require some change in logistics.

Under federal law, only licensed firearm dealers can conduct such checks. Campbell's plan would mean promoters would have to ensure there is at least one licensed dealer at every event.

Recognizing that dealers would not do that for free, Campbell said the legislation would allow that person to charge up to $50 per check. That would be on top of what he said is the $18 cost of the federal check.

Campbell defended the additional cost.

"We pay fees on all kinds of things if we want to have them,' he said. And Campbell, who said he is a gun owner, said owning a weapon is both a right and a responsibility.

"But if I want to buy a weapon that costs me $1,000 or more, I'm willing to pay a 50-buck fee to get that weapon,' he said.

Rathner said such checks are unnecessary.

He said Loughner who had passed a background check. Ditto for Holmes.

And Rathner said more than 90 percent of the weapons sold at gun shows already are subject to background checks because the sellers are licensed dealers.

But beyond that, he said there are practical problems.

He said a firearms dealer is required to enter a gun into his or her own inventory before doing a background check.

If the buyer does not clear, the weapon should go back to the seller. But Rathner said the dealer, having "title' to the gun, would then be required to do a background check on the seller.

"What if the seller does not pass the background check?' he asked. "Whose gun is it.'

Rathner said that's one reason that Tucson, which tried to mandate such checks on gun-show sales on city-owned property, abandoned the plan.

Campbell's plan also would require the same kind of background check for the sale of assault-style weapons, even if not at a gun show. So one neighbor selling a gun that fits that definition to another would have to run the purchase through a dealer who could charge a fee.

He acknowledged that what is considered an assault-style weapon, at least according to since-repealed federal laws, has more to do with a gun's appearance than its power. But he said there are certain markers that make some weapons more dangerous than others, including a high-capacity ammunition magazine.

Campbell acknowledged his plan for more school safety officers, increasing the number of counselors and providing grants for school safety measure carries a $100 million pricetag.

He said half that cost could be made up by eliminating a state law which gives individuals a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit for money to help students attend private and parochial schools. Campbell said many of the students taking advantage of those scholarships would be attending these schools anyway.

The chances of the GOP-controlled Legislature approving that is virtually nil, especially since lawmakers voted last year to actually expand the scholarships.


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