By Molly McKasson

Citizens for a Safer Pima County is a grass-roots group formed several years ago, specifically to eliminate gun sales to prohibited buyers on public property (i.e., Pima County Fairgrounds). As a public service, CSPC has solicited input on two gun safety questions from 2020 candidates running for the Board of Supervisors, for County Sheriff and County Attorney. By our July 6th deadline, we had heard back from 11 of the candidates.


Here are the questions we asked, followed by the candidates’ responses:

  • The current “gun show loophole” allows private sellers to sell guns to prohibited buyers (felons, domestic abusers, etc.) without any I.D. or background check. A number of other states and counties have closed this “loophole.” Do you believe that prohibited buyers should be allowed to buy guns at a facility owned by the people of Pima County?
  • Following the horrific and tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, our state government passed, and the governor signed into law, provisions that now prohibit any jurisdiction from requiring Universal Background Checks on public property. The law does not regulate non-profits like the Southwestern Fair Commission, which oversees all Fairground activity. Therefore, it’s possible the commission could require Universal Background Checks at all gun shows. But thus far, they have refused even to place the issue on their agenda. If elected, would you support efforts to ensure that no firearms are sold on County property without a background check?

Board of Supervisors:

District One:

Rex Scott (D): 1) Absolutely not! It’s a danger to public safety and an affront to the views of most people who favor common-sense restrictions on gun purchases that this situation facilitates. The next Board of Supervisors needs to work in partnership with the next County Attorney to assure that the only gun shows that are allowed to rent our fairgrounds are those that pledge to open their shows solely to sellers with federal licenses who are obliged to conduct background checks.

2) Yes. The gun show loophole is an example of the influence the NRA has on the United States Congress. The effects of its lobbying and political donations are also reflected in the Arizona law that prohibits jurisdictions from regulating guns in the name of public safety. If elected, I will make it a priority to work with my colleagues and with like-minded legislators to get this law repealed. If it is not possible to get the law removed from the books in a timely fashion, I would ask the County Attorney to advise us as to the best course to challenge the law. Another option to explore would be to seek ways for the Board to exert its influence on the Southwestern Fair Commission to take the proper actions to ensure public health and safety at any gun show on our fairgrounds.

District Two:

Ramon O. Valadez (D): 1) No. Furthermore, I don’t believe that any prohibited buyer should be able to buy a   gun ever.

2) I believe that all gun sales should require a background check. As stated above, the County is unable to require background checks on public property. I do believe that we can put pressure on the Southwestern Fair Commission. We do need to speak with our representatives in the State Legislature and make it clear that all jurisdictions should be able to govern and protect their own communities if the State of Arizona is unwilling to pass universal background checks.

Dr. Matt Heinz (D): 1) No. Following the horrific and tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, our state government passed, and the governor signed into law, provisions that now prohibit any jurisdiction from requiring Universal Background Checks on public property. The law does not regulate non-profits like the Southwestern Fair Commission, which oversees all Fairground activity. Therefore, it’s possible the Commission could require Universal Background checks at all gun shows; but thus far they have refused to even place the issue on their agenda.

2) Yes.

guns for sale

The vast majority of Americans support universal background checks for private sales and at gun shows (77% among gun owners and 87% among non-owners). The idea is not controversial.

District Three:

Sharon Bronson (D): 1) No    2) Yes.

Juan Padres (D): 1) No. I do not think prohibited buyers should be allowed to purchase guns on public property. Unfortunately, the gun show “loophole” allows for it.

2) Absolutely. If elected, I will make every effort to ensure that no firearms are sold on County property without a background check. There are probably different avenues worth exploring to stop the sale of guns without background checks. I am happy to get creative.

District Four:

Steve Diamond(D): 1) No. Prohibited buyers should be prohibited. A large majority of people favor this prohibition.  The people of Pima County should not be made complicit in these transactions, and neither should the County government.

2) Yes. All possible pressure should be brought to bear.

District Five:

Adelita Grijalva (D): 1) No. As a mother of three, this is an issue that Pima County must address urgently.

2) Yes. Supervisor Elias requested legal language assistance from the current Pima County Attorney, Barbara LaWall. Her office opined that we could not, under the law, ban shows from Pima County property. Since that was the office’s formal opinion, Supervisor Elias was stymied. I have since had the opportunity to speak to 2 candidates running for County Attorney, and both have committed to working to close this “loophole.”

Pima County does not operate the Fairgrounds but has a contract with the non-profit Southwestern Fair Commission for it to operate the Fairgrounds. As CFSP suggested, it may be possible that this entity could, if not require background checks, then ban gun shows from the Fairgrounds. If elected, I do have an appointment on that commission and would be recruiting a strong advocate to represent our interests.

In my personal opinion, Pima County owns the Fairgrounds and legally could ban gun shows there, either directly or by putting appropriate language into our contract with the Southwestern Fair Commission. If I am elected, I would move right away to request a meeting with the new County Attorney. Our willingness to allow this disregard for the legally required background checks cannot continue. It is a safety issue in our community, and I will be bringing significant attention to this issue.

We can also explore the issue as a public health risk, and ask the Pima County Health Department to weigh in on gun violence and its increased potential due to unregulated sales, as public health issues.

County Attorney:

Laura Conover (D): 1) No. The gun show loophole is three things: 1 A terrible gap that allows guns to fall into the wrong hands, 2 Which requires the most expensive form of investigative resources, involving  ATF undercover surveillance stings to counter illegal purchases, and 3. Is ironically an area of agreement where closing the loophole is acceptable to both gun law reformers and gun owners.

2) Yes. I simply cannot think there isn’t a way for the civil division of the Pima County Attorney’s Office to re-visit this legal issue. Immediately after finding that the Southwestern Fair Commission non-profit somehow interfered with the County’s right to limit gun sales on County property, I would have directed the civil division to advise the Board on how to re-negotiate the terms of the lease to reach a mutually beneficial contractual agreement to prevent the sale of firearms at the Fairgrounds. I can’t see how or why the current County Attorney’s Office hasn’t found a way to provide the Board with a solution.

There must be a free-market answer to the question. In dealing with the commission’s contract to lease the Fairgrounds, it seems an incentive could be found to motivate the commission to do it themselves.

To the point, if the Board has the will to implement the ban, surely the Civil Division can provide legal advice on various alternatives, until a mutually agreeable solution is reached with the commission.

Jonathan Mosher(D): 1) No. Full Stop.

2) Yes. I support universal background checks. The Southwestern Fair Commission should require universal background checks at all gun shows. As County Attorney, I would take every available legal action to support this change in policy.

I am also willing to support a challenge to the existing laws, so that local governments may take appropriate actions to protect public safety, reduce the threat of gun violence, and decrease liability risks and insurance costs. With the right lawyers making the right arguments, this is a battle we can win.

I have civil and criminal legal experience to make this happen. I am the only candidate with this combination of experience, which qualifies me to lead us in this effort to make Pima County a safer community for everyone.

Pima County Sheriff:

Mark D. Napier (R): 1) No. Prohibited possessors should never be allowed to purchase firearms without respect to where the purchase occurs. Doing so is already a felony offense.  Additionally, straw purchases are illegal. So, I would never support the ability of a prohibited possessor to purchase a firearm. This is already legislated against.

2) Yes. When licensed firearms dealers transact firearm sales, a background check should accompany it. I have purchased firearms at a gun show and had a background check performed. It is a decision of the Board of Supervisors and the Southwestern Fair Commission what conditions they place on the transaction of business on County property. This is not a decision that the Sheriff makes or has the authority to implement. There would simply have to be the ability to perform the checks at the location (the Fairgrounds).

Chris Nanos(D):  1) Absolutely, 150% No! It’s nonsense that we’re still even talking about this simplest of things to keep people safe.  Universal Background Checks are the kind of smart policy that should’ve happened long ago. We need background checks on all gun sales everywhere.

2) Absolutely, 150% Yes! I am ready to work with the Board of Supervisors to ensure that no firearm is ever sold without a background check on County property or anywhere else for that matter.

NOTE:  Unfortunately, we were unable to reach several of the candidates in each of the parties. If you are a candidate and your position is not included here, but you would like to have it publicized by CSPC before the General Election, please email your answers to Thank you to all the candidates who did respond!