Kozachik organizes gun buyback in Tucson in light of recent shootings
NRA members question legality of TPD destroying collected firearms
About 200 guns were collected at a gun buyback program that sparked controversy in the Tucson community on the second anniversary of the Jan. 8th shooting.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, gun owners in Tucson began arriving at the Tucson Police Substation on 22nd Street and Alvernon Way to turn in unwanted firearms in exchange for a $50 Safeway gift card as part of the community’s first gun buyback program.
Steve Kozachik, city councilman for Tucson’s Ward 6, organized the program with the help of the Tucson Police Department. According to Kozachik, more than $10,000 was donated in efforts to make the buyback a success. The donations helped Kozachik obtain the gift cards that were handed out to those who turned in weapons.
“I came up with this idea right before Christmas,” Kozachik said. “I wanted to see if the city will embrace it.”
Kozachik said that he picked the specific date to remind Tucson of how people came together as a community after the Jan. 8th shootings. Two years ago, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson. Six people were shot and killed and 13 more were injured, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
“We have a Columbine, a Connecticut, a January 8th, and it seems we talk about it for a few weeks,” Kozachik said. “I really just wanted to keep the conversation going, I hope that it will just keep the issue on people’s minds.”
However, Tucson’s gun buyback was surrounded by controversy because of the possibility that the firearms collected would be destroyed by the TPD. In addition to those opposing the buyback, some attendees offered cash for unwanted guns. There were signs being held that said “Gas money for guns,” and “Real cash for guns.”
“If the city destroys the guns, they’ll be in violation of the Arizona Revised Statutes,” said Todd Rathner, an Arizona lobbyist and member of the National Rifle Association’s national board of directors. “I think they’re not going to get anything valuable done. They’re only going to get junk.”
Rathner was referring to Title 12 Section 945 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which states “…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.”
Rathner said the statute makes it clear that the guns must be sold to a federal firearms dealer. He also added that the NRA did not oppose the buyback, but was focused on fighting against the destruction of the guns.
“We’ve gone through our city attorney and reviewed the Arizona law,” said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a TPD spokesman. “Basically, for this buyback, we do not fall under that statute.”
According to Widmer, any guns that had evidential value or were stolen would be held on to and processed, as in normal TPD procedure. Any gun collected that was not stolen would be destroyed.
However, some attendees commented on their concern over the motives behind the buyback.
“As far as we’re concerned, this is a political stunt just trying to pass new gun legislation in Tucson,” said Daniel Anderson, a community member and NRA supporter. “Some people probably feel like they’re doing something good, or some people just have some pretty shitty guns they want to get rid of that they couldn’t otherwise.”
Anderson also said that he felt that his Second Amendment rights would be infringed upon if Tucson did in fact pursue a change in gun legislation. Other attendees welcomed the opportunity to turn in guns.
“One less gun on the street is good,” said Darrell McQueen, a community member and attendee. “I heard about buybacks in other cities and I was hoping Tucson would do one. I never thought Tucson would but I’m glad they did.”