PHOENIX — A dispute between two politicians over gun legislation has blossomed into a full-scale shootout of sorts.
Instead of bullets, however, the combatants are firing public-records requests at each other, although it appears neither side has hit anything close to a bull’s eye.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is perturbed by legislation pushed through a Senate committee last month to put teeth into existing laws precluding cities from enacting their own gun regulations.
It would impose fines, let private groups sue city officials and even prohibit those officials from using public funds to defend themselves. And Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, made no secret that the measure is aimed at Tucson, which he called a “bad apple.”
Smith specifically wants to kill two Tucson city ordinances he contends violate pre-emption laws. One deals with when people have to report stolen weapons; the other allows police to request a breath sample from those who negligently discharge weapons.
But Kozachik said what got his attention was how the committee handled the testimony of Patricia Maisch. The Tucson resident, one of the survivors of the 2011 killing spree by Jared Loughner, urged lawmakers to butt out.
Smith challenged her contention that these are issues best left for local control, and SB 1291 was not only approved by the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Military and Technology but has since cleared the Senate and now awaits House action.
After that February hearing, however, Kozachik sent public-records requests to Smith and two of his Senate Republican colleagues who support the bill: John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills and Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City. He demanded all correspondence involving that legislation and the Tucson City Council.
But what really got Kavanagh’s attention was a request for correspondence referencing the Pima County Democratic Party — a demand co-signed by Cheryl Cage, who chairs the county Democratic Party, which he said he “thought really politicized this a little bit.”
“I said let’s do a request for him and any emails on the subject between him and anybody, including the Democrat Party,” Kavanagh said. Sure enough, a request went out.
City officials who keep track of Kozachik’s email sent back computer screen grabs showing no records found that matched Kavanagh’s request. And Kavanagh said his secretary, who keeps track of his own emails, apparently turned up nothing related to the issue.
“The great intercounty war was ended with a volley of blanks being fired, and a truce,” the senator said.
Not exactly. Kozachik said he questions whether the senators are really being honest.
He said that, unlike city records, each legislator maintains his or her own emails. And he said that means relying on the response from Kavanagh’s staff and staffers of the other legislators.
In 2013, then-Attorney General Tom Horne issued opinions saying the city cannot legally require breath samples from people who appear intoxicated and discharge a gun, or mandate stolen guns be reported to the police because the discharge and transfer of weapons are both controlled by the state.
City officials disagree with Horne’s interpretation and both ordinances remain in place. SB 1291 is designed to force the issue into court.