Tombstone Mayor, Sierra Vista gun shop owner weigh in on debate over gun reform

TOMBSTONE, Ariz. - As the battle over gun reform continues, the Mayor of "America's Second Amendment City," and a Sierra Vista gun shop owner are weighing in.

"Tombstone and guns are synonymous," Mayor Dusty Escapule said. 

He proclaimed Tombstone as "America's Second Amendment City," about a year ago. Guns run deep in the city's history, and are an integral part of the culture. He's a firm believer in the idea that American citizens have the right to bear arms.

But after 58 people were murdered in the Las Vegas mass shooting, and then 17 more were murdered in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, he adopted a new stance on guns.

"It could have been one of my grandkids or my kids, they're all country western fans, they could have been there watching this concert and been one of the victims of somebody that murdered 50 something people," Escapule said. "That was with an assault weapon."

He stands firm that Americans should have the right to own guns for self-defense and sport, but doesn't believe people should be allowed to own assault-style weapons.

"These assault weapons are not really what we used to consider as a weapon to protect yourself," he said. "They are what they are called, an assault rifle, assault weapons."

Mike Benson owns Trail Boss Guns in Sierra Vista. He sells a variety of guns, from handguns to shotguns, to modern sporting rifles, also known as assault-style weapons.

"Over the last few years, the most popular guns have been the 9 millimeter pistol, particularly the smaller, single stacks, and also the AR style modern sporting rifles," Benson said.

He doesn't believe banning assault-style rifles will stop mass shooting events from happening. 

"The firearm is just a tool, and it's the person that wields it that is the issue," he said. "You didn't see a call to ban pressure cookers after the Boston Bombing, you didn't see a call to ban rental cars after the incidents in New York trying to run over pedestrians."

It's a mental health issue, that is very difficult to navigate, according to Benson.

"It's an incredibly complex situation. I would think that one of the first things you have to look at is it's a mental health issue," he said. "How do you balance somebody's right to healthcare privacy versus public safety, with reporting potentially dangerous people and keeping guns out of their hands."

Benson says increasing the amount of information taken in the background check system would be beneficial in making sure people who shouldn't have guns don't get them.

"I think most independent gun store owners would highly support an increase in background checks," he said. "We see it that it does prevent individuals who shouldn't have guns from getting guns. The problem is, not all of the information that needs to be in the background check system is in there."

When it comes to having more in-depth background checks, Escapule agrees. He doesn't have any issue with most guns, his problem comes with the assault-style weapons, or modern sporting rifles.

"I believe that the statistics pretty much show and prove what I'm saying," he said. "The local governments need to step up and say look, like the state of Florida did. They saw that a serious problem -- even though the NRA is suing them -- I still think that the governor of Florida did the right thing."

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