City Councilman Steve Kozachik's somewhat controversial gun buyback has been set for Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Residents looking to part with an unwanted firearm in exchange for a $50 Safeway gift card will be able to make the swap at the Tucson Police Department's midtown substation, 1100 S. Alvernon Way.
Kozachik has raised close to $7,000 in private donations for the buyback.
Once the guns are collected, TPD will process them and dispose of them, Kozachik said.
The idea behind the buyback is to give people who are uncomfortable with a gun they own an opportunity to get rid of it safely, he said.
While Kozachik views it as an innocuous way to get unwanted guns out of circulation, gun-rights advocates see it as a potential violation of state law.
Todd Rathner, a member of the National Rifle Association's national board of directors, said an amendment to a state law last year prohibits police departments from destroying firearms. Rathner said the law requires departments to sell every firearm they take in to an authorized seller once it's established the guns are neither stolen nor have been used in the commission of a crime.
"The NRA maintains that the city of Tucson must not destroy any of the guns they receive during the buyback," Rathner wrote in an email. "We will take action to assure that the city follows state law and sells any guns they receive to an authorized dealer for resale to the public. If the city refuses to comply with state law, we will take it up with Attorney General (Tom) Horne to assure the city does comply."
City Attorney Mike Rankin disagreed with Rathner's interpretation of the law and gave the green light for TPD to destroy the guns received during the buyback.
"I advised there are no legal impediments to allowing gun owners to turn in, voluntarily, their own weapons," Rankin said.
Rankin said the law applies to confiscated weapons, not guns willingly turned in by their owners.
"Nothing in the legislative record gives any indication that the discussion about the statute had anything to do with voluntary buyback programs," Rankin said.
Kozachik said he doesn't understand the intense opposition.
"This is the voluntary surrender of unwanted firearms. It's not the desecration of holy icons, as some evidently perceive it," Kozachik said.
He said the hostility toward something as simple as a gun buyback proves it's time for Tucson to have a serious discussion about firearms and their role in our culture.
"The extremely over-the-top reactions to this idea make the point better than I could have, that this community absolutely needs to have this conversation. Mental illness, drugging our kids with legal pharmaceuticals, psychiatric evaluations, cultural issues such as violent video games are all needed to be a part of this. But so are guns and oversized clips," Kozachik said. "There is nothing anti-Second Amendment about engaging the conversation. Everybody in the community is supportive of the safe handling and storing of firearms. The NRA guys should be supporting this instead of losing their sense of rationality about it."
As an alternative to the buyback, Ken Rineer, president of Gun Owners of Arizona, said his organization plans to offer "a basic firearms safety class … for people who have these firearms in their closets and maybe don't know what to do with them or how to even check them.
"We would teach people how to check that their weapon is safe, proper storage, what can happen when a firearm is improperly used and things along those lines," Rineer said. He said he already has licensed instructors who have offered to teach the classes and is now looking for a place to hold them.
Kozachik said he supports the training idea as well. "I say more power to you. Bring your program out and offer it to the public. Our goals are the same," Kozachik said.
"This is the voluntary surrender of unwanted firearms. It's not the desecration of holy icons, as some evidently perceive it."
Tucson city councilman
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at email@example.com or 573-4243.