City paid almost $10K for gun buy

42 police officers provided security at Kozachik's event
2013-04-27T00:00:00Z 2013-04-27T16:11:48Z City paid almost $10K for gun buyDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tucson Police Department records show just under $10,000 was spent on 42 police officers who worked at Councilman Steve Kozachik's gun buyback event last January.

A local gun-rights advocate said the numbers prove Kozachik was misleading the public when he claimed the buyback wouldn't waste taxpayer's money.

Ken Rineer, president of Gun Owners of Arizona, said with TPD resources already stretched thin, the department could ill-afford to take officers off the street just "to take in a bunch of .22 bolt-action rifles from people's closets."

But Kozachik said he's not to blame for the number of officers present that day.

"If people like Ken Rineer hadn't hyped this, it wouldn't have been a volatile issue," Kozachik said. "This was a benign event. If they had treated this like it was an ice cream social instead of Armageddon Day for the Second Amendment, there wouldn't have been a need for so many officers."

Records indicate TPD recognized in advance that protesters and a large number of people turning in guns would likely attend. The department wanted to ensure staffing levels could properly monitor and protect all those who showed up.

TPD spokesman Sgt. Chris Widmer said no serious issues occurred because officers were assigned to the buyback, although he conceded response times could have suffered slightly since some of the officers would have been on patrol at the time.

"We wouldn't want to be in the habit of doing this all the time," Widmer said. "Call response times may have been slower. … But there were no losses on the streets."

More than 200 people eventually arrived at TPD's midtown police station to surrender a gun, protest the buyback or find a deal. The three-hour event remained incident-free.

It collected 206 guns in exchange for $50 Safeway gift cards. Kozachik added none of the officers received overtime pay and were working within the course of a normal workday.

Rineer said an officer's normal workday doesn't involve collecting and destroying guns and Kozachik should have been required to pay for it just like others who use police for their events.

"We have no problem with those who want to have their firearms destroyed rather than sell them to a federally licensed dealer or to a pawn shop. Moreover, they are free to take their privately owned firearms to a machine shop and have them destroyed," Rineer said in a press release. "What we do have a problem with is using resources paid for by the taxpayer without reimbursing them."

Rineer said the true cost remains unknown since the city won't reveal how much it cost to destroy the guns.

TPD cites "security reasons" as to why it doesn't give out information regarding the company it contracts with to dispose of the firearms.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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