In gun-friendly Arizona it's now the law: Thou shalt not destroy guns
Protestors railed against the NRA in Washington D.C. last month, when the U.S. Senate voted down a bill that would tighten background checks for gun buyers. Last week in Arizona the NRA won another victory. The state Senate passed an NRA-supported law forbidding cities from destroying guns surrendered in buyback programs. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
As Monty Python fans might say, “Who’d’a’thunk?”
A program aimed at buying back guns from citizens who are willing to surrender them – in a state that has one of the highest gun death rates in the country – has been pushed aside as ‘a waste of taxpayers money.'
But that's exactly what happened in Arizona this week.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill making it illegal for any city or municipality in Arizona to destroy firearms that citizens – keen to reduce the number of firearms in circulation – have been handing over.
Several cities have such ‘buyback’ campaigns, key among them: Tucson, where a mass shooting in 2011 killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Governor Brewer, a strong gun rights advocate, and her Republican supporters in the state legislature, pointed out that a 2010 law already requires authorities to take “seized” weapons and sell them to licensed dealers, who re-sell them into the general population.
Democratic opponents countered, saying weapons collected in ‘buyback’ campaigns are not “seized,” but “voluntarily surrendered,” and should be treated differently.
But the governor dismissed the “seized” versus “surrendered” debate, and the GOP-sponsored bill passed.
The National Rifle Association saw the new bill’s passage as a common sense victory. In a letter of support in advance of the vote, the NRA claimed that by re-selling the guns, the firearms “would maintain their value, and their sale to the public would help recover public funds.”
It makes some sense: If a city re-sells a Sig Sauer P226 in mint condition for $299, the combined state and city taxes would amount to $27.21.
But what if just one of those guns finds their way into the hands of a criminal – or a mentally unstable individual like Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter who, on a crisp January morning in 2011, fired 33 bullets with his Glock pistol?
Those costs are still being paid – and will be for years to come.
Bill Schiller has held bureau postings for the Star in Johannesburg, Berlin, London and Beijing. He is a NNA and Amnesty International Award winner, and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the class of '06. Follow him on Twitter @wschiller