GUN-BUYBACK TURNOUT 'GRATIFIES' KOZACHIK

200 firearms are turned in for $50 cards in Tucson buyback; 40 purchased

2013-01-09T00:00:00Z 2013-09-16T13:43:52Z 200 firearms are turned in for $50 cards in Tucson buyback; 40 purchasedDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Supporters and opponents turned out in droves Tuesday morning for City Councilman Steve Kozachik's gun buyback.

During the three-hour event, more than 200 shotguns, rifles and handguns were exchanged for $50 Safeway Food Store gift cards.

Around 40 other guns were purchased by people who brought cash to the event in the hopes of landing a good deal.

Kozachik conceived of the event about two weeks ago as a way for people to dispose of unwanted guns in their homes. And that's who comprised the majority of people who showed up.

Arthur Vokes, who turned in three revolvers, said his guns have been lying around for years.

"I had them for 30 years and they haven't been out of the holster in about as long," Vokes said. "I didn't want them to end up on the streets and wanted to get them out of the house."

Nancy Bowlan turned in a broken rifle that her husband never got around to fixing, so she decided it was time to get rid of it.

"We've had this rifle for as long as I've been married, 42 years," Bowlan said.

Not everyone dropped off their guns for such practical reasons. Others participated on philosophical grounds.

Zack Jarrett said he turned in his pistol because he did a bit of soul-searching the night before over the role guns play in our society.

"A good friend of mine just told me last night that I have to be the change (I) want to see," Jarrett said.

Despite a backlash from gun-rights advocates, whose views of the buyback ranged from considering it a waste of time and police resources to an assault on the Second Amendment, Kozachik said the buyback was a success.

The collected firearms were shredded by a private company Tuesday afternoon, said Sgt. Maria Hawke, a Tucson Police Department spokeswoman.

"I'm gratified that the community saw a value in this," Kozachik said. "Clearly there are people who took this thing seriously, even though the guys in the streets were trying to make this a firearms flea market."

About 70 people lined the entrance and periphery of the Tucson Police Department's midtown substation parking lot, some holding signs, waving cash or verbally expressing their intent to offer a better deal than Kozachik.

James Cunningham and Michael Copley were representative of many who showed up to buy guns. They were not only there looking for a bargain but were using the buyback as a way to protest what they considered an ill-conceived event.

"We're against a political stunt," Cunningham said. "And if you're selling your guns, we think you should get something for it."

Bailey Rodgers also considered the buyback to be nothing more than political pandering. He said he didn't think perfectly fine guns should be taken out of circulation.

"I'd like to keep weapons in the hands of people who can use them and protect what's theirs," Rodgers said.

Brian Sanford wasn't in the market for a gun. He wanted to send a message to Kozachik over the councilman's desire to change state gun laws to give cities more autonomy regarding gun-control ordinances.

"The gun laws that are in Arizona shouldn't be any stricter," Sanford said. "Any attempt to make them any stricter is a violation of the (U.S.) Constitution."

More than 40 guns were purchased by private individuals, said former state Sen. Frank Antenori, who picked up two handguns for $175. He quipped that if one didn't work, he'll just sell it to Kozachik for a gift card at the next buyback.

He was also critical about what he considered a waste of police time and taxpayer money.

"I want to know what the per- hour cost is to have this many officers taken off the streets for this political stunt," Antenori said. "Kozachik was touting that this wouldn't cost public money, but nobody's willing to call him on it. I guess when you're a lefty you can get away with it. ... I just hope the taxpayers remember this in November" when Kozachik faces re-election.

TPD Lt. Fabian Pacheco said the approximately 40 officers at the event were all working their regular shifts and were not receiving overtime.

He said even though the officers were reassigned for a few hours, it didn't mean the public was being shortchanged.

"We serve the community in a wide variety of capacities. This is just another example of our service to our community, namely helping those folks that are looking for a way to get rid of a weapon they no longer want," Pacheco said. "Yeah, there are going to be folks saying it's a waste of taxpayer money. But at the same time there were many, many folks that came through this line today who were extremely thankful and complimentary of the department and the officers that did this."

Pacheco said things went well considering it was the first time TPD has assisted in a gun buyback. He said the presence of bomb technicians and a high number of police officers were precautionary measures the department took to ensure everything went smoothly.

Despite the heated rhetoric the event prompted, Pacheco said, everyone remained cordial and no problems were reported.

Pacheco said none of the guns was determined to be stolen or involved in a crime.

On StarNet: Videos on the gun buyback and Giffords' gun-control initiative are at azstarnet.com/video

Star reporter Veronca Cruz contributed. 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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