PHOENIX - State senators voted Tuesday to close what they consider a loophole that allows cities to destroy weapons surrendered in "buyback" programs, saying the guns are public assets worth money.
State law now requires cities to sell weapons that are seized or are "found property," such lost or abandoned weapons not needed as evidence.
HB 2455, which now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer, expands the requirement to guns acquired at events, such as one held in Tucson earlier this year, where guns are swapped for donated funds or gift cards.
Technically, cities could still offer to buy the guns but would be required to sell them to federally licensed firearms dealers who then would offer them for resale. Senate President Andy Biggs said at that point, the owners might just as well sell the guns themselves and pocket the cash.
The 18-12 vote came after an emotional debate that dealt not only with the latest change, but with the entire requirement that cities must sell off the weapons that come into their possession.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said the law has the effect of forcing law enforcement to sell off the Glock used by Jared Loughner to kill six people in front of a Tucson Safeway and seriously wound Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others.
Farley conceded later this legislation actually would not apply in that case, partly because Loughner was prosecuted in federal court.
But Farley said that makes no difference. He said the Republican-controlled Legislature has repeatedly sided with gun-rights activists and against the rights of victims and, in this case, local officials.
Because the law refers to seized and found weapons, cities argued they retain the ability to obtain and destroy weapons given voluntarily to police. This legislation, which already has been approved by the House, seeks to block that by adding the word "surrendered" to what must be sold off.
Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, said she has no problem with police selling guns. She said that's what occurs in her hometown.
"My problem is we're taking away the rights of the local elected officials in the communities that they represent from being permitted to make that decision," she said.
Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, cited a study that linked loose gun laws to deaths by gun violence, which identifies Arizona as having the fourth-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.
But Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, said those seeking to destroy guns are missing the point.
"Many here in this body want to blame 30-round magazines and semiautomatic weapons for violence," she said, based on their desire to deal with things that can be controlled.
"Unfortunately, murder, violence and insanity are built in to the human condition and likely always will be," she said.
Limiting weapons ignores another fact, she said: "There are two types of animals: predators and prey. "When we take away individuals' right to defend themselves, we create more predators."
But Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, said it is wrong for either side to look at this as a debate about gun rights.
"It's about protecting taxpayers," he said. "It deals with valuable property that is being destroyed ... for no good reason, to accomplish nothing other than make people feel good."