PHOENIX (AP) - Minority Democrats in the Arizona Senate used a procedural move Tuesday to force a vote on legislation that would require background checks for any firearm purchase.
The move came a week after a man armed with two AR-15-type rifles killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The effort led to more than an hour of pleas from Democrats and pushback from Republicans, who for years have blocked all gun restrictions.
All 16 Senate Republicans voted against the measure, while the 13 Democrats supported it. The bill, which never got a hearing, would have closed the so-called gun show loophole that allows someone to buy a gun without the federal background check that federally licensed firearms dealers are required to perform before a sale is completed.
Republicans won’t even assign Democratic gun bills to a committee, meaning they never get hearings or a chance to get a formal floor vote. Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada bypassed that process to bring it right to the floor.
"This isn’t a radical idea - this isn’t something that other states aren’t considering or even enacting," Quezada said.
He called requiring background checks for private gun purchases, anything except a transfer to a family member, a commonsense measure supported by overwhelmingly majorities of Americans that won’t prevent anyone legally allowed to have a gun from purchasing one.
"We have that loophole built into our public policy," he said. "And closing it, fixing this policy would save lives."
Republicans listened as Democrat after Democrat pleaded for their support, including a tearful Sen. Raquel Teran, who said she can’t stop watching the stories of the slain children while thinking of her young son.
"The ask here is to vote on common sense legislation," Teran said. "If this is not it, what is it? Let’s come to the table, let’s work together, I know we can."
Republicans said there was no way they’d back the background check bill.
Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli said it would impact private property rights, and said it would keep him from selling a gun to a trusted friend. He noted that the 18-year-old gunman legally bought the two rifles. He then read part of the Second Amendment.
GOP Sen. Rick Gray pointed to gun violence in Chicago, in a state with tough gun laws and a seeming unending string of shootings each weekend.
"Night after night, week after week, year after year, children are dying of gun violence in Chicago," Gray said. "But when it comes to Texas, let’s stir this up, and let’s make a political statement here to pass gun laws."
And Sen. Warren Petersen said he too wouldn’t back the Democrats’ measure.
"The reason why this bill should not be supported is because it will stop law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves," Petersen said. "Criminals will not abide by this law. Only law-abiding citizens will abide by this law.
"I vote no so good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns," he added.
Democrats noted that good guys with guns were not able to save the children from the gunman.
"This ‘good guy with a gun’ nonsense — if you read the papers there were multiple police officers, armed police offers, standing outside in the parking lot when the guy was in the classroom killing children," Democratic Sen. Rebecca Rios said.
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Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona (file)