And you thought it wasn’t wise to discuss religion or politics with strangers? What about guns?
Controversy continues to swirl around the issue of gun ownership – in Arizona as well as in the rest of the nation.
In the wake of the mass murder in Tucson, when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was targeted for assassination, state Republicans have introduced no fewer than seven bills in this session that would loosen restrictions on gun use or ownership, an agenda some Democrats say is not supported by most Arizonans.
On March 3, the Arizona Senate Democratic caucus, citing results of a poll taken in five states, alleged in a printed release that “83 percent of Arizonans support background checks” for gun purchasers, including those attending gun shows.
The release also quoted a Democratic lawmaker who called for Republican “accountability.”
“Arizona gun owners believe in the Second Amendment and they too believe in common sense,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, (D-Phoenix), a former Marine who fought in Iraq. “These same people don’t support these bills. But what they do support is fixing Arizona’s broken system, preserving our communities and creating world-class education for our children. It’s time to hold Republicans accountable so that we can finally have honesty and effectiveness in government.”
The survey, conducted in February by a Virginia polling firm, was sponsored by a coalition of more than 500 mayors, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), a group formed in 2008 and co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. MAIG also commissioned surveys in Indiana, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia.
The Arizona portion of the survey was conducted by American Viewpoint, a firm with an extensive Republican client list, including the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign organization.
American Viewpoint pollsters called 600 state residents, all registered voters, nearly half of whom said they owned firearms, and concluded that 49 percent of the respondents feel that gun laws should be made stricter, while another 42 percent of Arizonans said they support no changes in current restrictions. Five percent said they favor less strict controls, and the remaining four percent had no opinion.
Meanwhile, an Arizona expert on gun legislation – a lecturer and author of at least nine books on gun laws – puts much of the blame for public confusion and misinterpretation on the gun issue squarely on what he calls the “lamestream” media. Alan Korwin of Scottsdale writes a blog, pagenine.org, linked to his website, gunlaws.com. “They (the media) just don’t take the time to validate or question their sources on this issue,” he said.
Dubious also of most surveys about gun control, Korwin said he “believes” that about 70 percent of all Arizonans generally support gun ownership, while about 30 percent are unalterably opposed to “the rights afforded all Americans by the second amendment to the Constitution.”
Republicans have introduced two bills in the State Senate, and five in the House, that would apparently ease current restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms:
SB 1201: Prevents the banning of firearms in public buildings and public events, including places where alcohol is served.
SB 1335: Allows jackrabbits, raccoons and predatory animals to be hunted after dark.
HB 2563: Would make it easier for mentally ill people to get their gun rights restored.
HB 2001: Would allow community colleges and university faculty members to carry concealed weapons on Arizona college campuses if they have permits.
HB 2014: Would allow gun holders with valid permits to carry guns on ASU campuses.
HB 2392: Allows a person who lawfully owns a gun to carry it immediately outside school grounds.
HB 2479: Prohibits the governing board of an educational institution to restrict firearms on campuses.
Maricopa’s legislative representatives, all of whom are Republicans, favor the pending gun legislation. Rep. John Fillmore said he “would never restrict an American’s ability to own or have a weapon available for his or her defense in any way.”
Sen. Steve Smith reiterated his support of “all gun legislation we passed,” adding that he remained firmly behind the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“You could post signs, I suppose, banning guns here, and banning guns somewhere else,” Smith said. “The problem with that is, the bad guys don’t pay attention to signs. I believe society is better off when the good guys have guns.”
Rep. Frank Pratt, who acknowledges he has supported pro-gun legislation in the past, said that the Democratic news release is “politics as usual.
“We see hundreds and hundreds of bills every year in the House,” Pratt said, “but many or most of them never get beyond the point of being assigned to committee, and I really don’t want to comment on a survey I haven’t yet studied.”