Arizona NRA Lobbyist Lashes Out Against Buyback Program: Don’t Destroy Guns

Republican Tuscon city councilman, Steve Kozachik

Republican Tuscon city councilman, Steve Kozachik, organizing buyback event@

A gun buyback program was recently held in Tuscon, Arizona. It seems that more and more cities are deciding to help people get rid of guns they no longer want. Most offer a gift card for a flat amount, in exchange for the weapons. Just like other cities that hold these events, the one in Tuscon has a plan for all those guns: they will be destroyed. That’s not been a problem in the past, but apparently, the NRA is taking issue with it.

The event was organized by Republican Tucson city councilman, Steve Kozachik. He scheduled the event on the two-year anniversary of the shooting where six people were killed, and twelve others were injured, including former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords. The local police department took care of the paperwork, making sure none of the guns were used in crimes, while Kozachik gave out $50 Safeway gift cards. In other words, the event exchanged guns for food. The event was so popular they had to bring in extra staff to help out. By the end, over 200 guns were collected (and a few protesters made their voices heard!)

Buyback protestors; photo by Noelle Haro-Gomez @ Tucson Weekly

Buyback protestors; photo by Noelle Haro-Gomez @ Tucson Weekly

Even though the number of guns collected was substantial, it could have been higher. Another gun buyback event was  held just a few hundred feet from this event. It was held by State Sen. Frank Antenori. His program offered $50 or more in cash for the weapons, but it seems that city officials didn’t look kindly on his event. People who helped with this event were warned not to shout out offers to those in line for the main event.  The real problem with this counter-event wasn’t really the noise it created, or the fact that it offered cash instead of a gift card. Kozachik told Tuscon’s NBC affiliate, KVOA, what the real problem was.

“Buying guns for cash and walking away with no background check… if that just doesn’t scream for legislation to fix that loophole, they couldn’t have made that point any better for me.”

Todd Rathner, an Arizona NRA lobbyist, doesn’t have a problem with the buyback program; he doesn’t have a problem with no background checks. He has a problem with the fact that the guns collected by the main event will be destroyed. He believes that the law has been misinterpreted, and the guns should, instead, be sold to the highest bidder. He’s thinking of suing to prevent the guns from being destroyed. If that doesn’t work, he said he’ll work with legislators friendly to the NRA to change the laws. Tuscon’s city attorney doesn’t believe that destroying the guns would violate Arizona’s statute. The section on Sale of Property states:

(A) If after thirty days notice has been given the owner or person entitled to the property has not taken it away, the property may be sold. The proceeds shall be paid to the general fund of the jurisdiction from which the unclaimed property was received.

Essentially, Section A states that if property has been abandoned (left for 30 days or more), the property gets sold. It does not have language for property that’s been handed over voluntarily. Under that section is one pertaining to firearms:

(B) Notwithstanding subsection A of this section, if the property is a firearm, the court shall order the firearm to be sold to any business that is authorized to receive and dispose of the firearm under federal and state law and that shall sell the firearm to the public according to federal and state law, unless the firearm is otherwise prohibited from being sold under federal and state law.

It does appear that the second section provides some stick to Rathner’s argument, however, it seems it would be up to a court to decide. This reaction shows that the NRA is pushing back against any action that lowers the count of available firearms. I don’t think the NRA realizes that they are fighting a very strong backlash. Stubborn is as stubborn does.