Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said it’s time to enact common-sense gun safety laws to Arizona, including red flag laws, universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole.
“Do people need to be carrying high capacity weapons and weapons of war as a means of protection? Let’s get real – we’re talking about major urban areas where police are right around the corner. The need for a gun is greatly diminished in an urban environment,” he said.
He also opposed arming teachers. “That doesn’t make sense. That’s craziness. Having more guns in schools is an invitation for more people to have access to guns and use them,” he said.
Magnus spoke at an education forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson at Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on February 15. Additional panelists were Sherry Hoskinson, a longtime member of the NRA, and Kelly Ireland, a gun violence survivor and member of Moms Demand Action Against for Gun Sense in America.
Gun violence is America’s Ebola epidemic
“We need to do something about gun violence,” Ireland said. “Each year, 40,000 people die from gun-related injuries. If we had 40,000 cases of the Ebola virus, what do you think would happen? People would start believing in science again. They would want science to figure out a way of stopping that.”
“Gun violence is America’s Ebola epidemic. People say ‘guns don’t kill people, people do.’ As it turns out, guns do kill people,” she said.
Magnus said the Tucson police have initiatives to fight gun violence:
- A Mental Health Support Team (MHST) with a dozen detectives who work to stop shootings before they happen with severely mentally ill persons. “We’ve identified a number of individuals who are very dangerous but our system of intervention is seriously inadequate,” he said.
- A Gun Crimes Unit recovered 1,500 firearms that were processed through the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIDIN). “In 2019, we developed 200 investigative leads with NIDIN in gun-related incidents last year, some matched multiple crime scenes,” he said. The Gun Crimes Unit issued 120 firearms charges, many of which involved prohibited possessor crimes.
Bad NRA Influence
“So much of what we have is inadequate and that needs to change,” he said. “The problem is because Congress been greatly influenced by the NRA with a lot of money. This has made it next to impossible to do research on crimes and deaths involving firearms. We research everything else in this country. Yet in the case where hundreds of thousands of lives are being lost where guns are involved, we have next to no reliable research on which guns are being used in which circumstances.”
“We should focus on common-sense regulations concerning guns, given how dangerous they are, as well as common-sense regulation of the people who are buying these guns,” he said.
Ireland added, “Go home and Google your state legislators who have lined their pockets with NRA money. Check it out.”
|Name||Office||Total NRA Contributions|
|McSally, Martha (R-AZ)||US Senate||$3,000|
|Biggs, Andy (R-AZ)||US House||$1,000|
|Lesko, Debbie (R-AZ)||US House||$1,000|
“You don’t need armor-piercing bullets. I don’t want to go to a movie theater and worry about being shot. I don’t want to go to Basha’s and stand behind a man with a bandolero and a gun hanging off his hip,” she said.
Sherry Hoskinson, a gun owner who emphasized that she does not speak for the NRA said, “We need gun wisdom along with gun rights. Restricting private sales falls under ‘gun wisdom’ and the ability to make sure that people who should not have weapons don’t have access to one. But we should err on side of not restricting someone who should have the right to own it.”
She said that when she was driving back and forth to Phoenix for a job, she carried a gun. “I had a fear of breaking down and wondered how I might protect myself. I’m a single mother of 5. Not that I would ever want to use the gun, but I made the choice that that’s how I’m going to defend myself.”
Improving gun safety
Magnus pointed out that a majority of the public including NRA members support universal background checks.
“We should focus on common-sense regulations concerning guns, given how dangerous that they are, as well as common-sense regulation of the people who are buying these guns. We are now in such a tribalized time, and the influence of the NRA has become so strong that we cannot accomplish even things that many people thought was common sense.”
He brought up the gun show loophole, which allows 80% of all firearms acquired for criminal purposes to be obtained through transfers from unlicensed sellers.
A case in point is the Pima Fairgrounds gun show – scheduled for March 7-8. The Fairgrounds Commission allows Convicted Gun Felons to Run the Pima County Gun Show. Despite protests, calls at its meetings to require background checks, and resolutions passed by the County and the City, the Fairgrounds Commission has stonewalled efforts to require background checks.
“There are gun shows where there is no check of any kind. There are transfers of guns between private parties that involve nothing more than the exchange of cash for a gun. Guns are sold through straw purchases, where a person illegally purchases a gun and provides it to someone who has a very problematic background,” Magnus said.
Magnus added that existing background checks must be improved. “A better-designed universal background check would have access to databases that tell you if a person has outstanding warrants, a history of using weapons inappropriately, and if they have mental health issue or a protective order against them,” he said.
“Slippery Slope” Myth
Magnus dismissed the myth that gun safety restrictions will lead to gun confiscation, which is a bogus canard of the NRA.
“There are a lot of other aspects of life on a daily basis where we understand and accept that there are laws and restrictions about what we do,” Magnus said. “Nobody would suggest that having to take a test to drive a vehicle and having to obey driving laws, that this is a slippery slope that’s going to keep people from being able to drive. Nobody would say that doing through TSA at an airport is a slippery slope to not being able to travel. Anything could be taken to an extreme. What disappoints me about the NRA is that they are in the position of the far end of the pendulum.”
“Gun violence in any form leaves an indelible mark on those affected,” Ireland said, citing several statistics:
- A recent poll reported that 58% of Americas say they have someone they love who has experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
- The US gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.
- 22,000 people die by gun suicide every year. Access to guns in the home increases the likelihood of suicide by 3 times.
She supports the Be SMART program, which focuses on education and awareness about child gun deaths and responsible gun storage. “Secure your guns. I knew where the guns were kept when I was a kid. You shouldn’t keep a gun in the car console. Keep them locked up in a gun safe.”
“Guns are not toys. There are pink guns and pink bullets and pink purses with pockets to store guns,” she said. When children visit a friend, parents should ask the other parent if they have guns. Ask them if they are secure. Then ask them how. If the gun is in dad’s underwear drawer, that’s not secure.”
But Magnus lamented that “We lack the tools to prevent tragedies. For example – Border Agent Chase White was shot and killed in 2019 while serving a felony arrest warrant to a seriously mentally ill person. The killer continued to have access to firearms, including the one he used to murder Marshall White.”