The state House voted Thursday to slam the door on gun buyback programs—even when the owners specifically ask that their weapons be destroyed. Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, said HB 2455 simply clarifies existing laws which requires governments to sell any weapons that have been seized. The law also covers "found property,'' which is defined as anything recovered, lost or abandoned that is not needed as evidence. Arizona TribuneA little known provision of Arizona's Constitution came to light earlier this year when Tucson held a gun buy-back program to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly assault that injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. More than 200 weapons were turned in at the event, which was planned by City Councilman Steve Kozachik.
The Republican lawmaker did not expect what happened next: Not only did Kozachick receive threatening emails and phone calls, but Todd Rathner, an Arizona lobbyist and NRA board member, threatened to sue if the weapons were melted down (they were). Rathner cited a section of the Arizona Constitution [ARS 12-945] that requires police departments to resell weapons they obtain. The language was originally intended for guns seized from criminals or in the course of normal police work, but the NRA saw an opening and exploited it.
Still, the language in ARS 12-945 referred to "seized" and "unclaimed" property, so it seemed open enough that gun safety advocates maintained the law did not apply to voluntary buy-back programs, which several Arizona cities currently operate. Enter the NRA and their stooge legislators, who crafted and inserted new language that clarifies the law: any gun, whether seized from criminals, found on someone's property, or obtained voluntarily, must be resold.
Democrat Ruben Gallego pushed for language that exempted voluntary destruction programs, but that was rejected. Republicans even refused to budge on a proposal that would allow municipalities to destroy turned-in weapons if no public funds are involved. People are free to destroy their own weapons, of course (for now), and some nonprofit groups accept and melt down guns, but they can't do what police can: trace the weapon to see if it's connected to a crime.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brenda Barton, said cities shouldn't melt down guns because they are "assets" that can be resold to help balance the budget. I wonder if she'd say the same thing about seized marijuana, which, last time I checked, never slaughtered a roomful of first-graders. I suspect the real reason the NRA and their legislative flunkies would rather require individuals and not cities to melt down weapons is that gun buy-backs have become popular social and political events that celebrate the destruction of guns. And that's a no-no in Arizona, one of only three states that has an Official State Weapon (ours is the Colt revolver, because it helped kill a lot of Indians no doubt).
In an ironic twist, Democrat Chad Campbell said the new law actually infringes on the NRA's hallowed Second Amendment:
"If a firearm owner willingly wants to turn in their gun, that's actually their right under the Second Amendment,'' he said.As usual with Republican politics, they're originalists until they're not.