Tucson City Council OKs two gun laws to give police a hand

2013-05-30T00:00:00Z Tucson City Council OKs two gun laws to give police a handDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson City Council passed two new firearms regulations Wednesday night aimed at giving police additional tools when investigating gun crimes.

The first requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the Police Department within 48 hours. Failure to do so could result in a $100 fine.

The second empowers police to subject a person who negligently discharges a gun and appears intoxicated to either a blood or breath test.

TPD doesn't currently track stolen guns nor know the history of many of the guns it recovers in crimes, which can delay an investigation.

With the new reporting ordinance, the department will be able to create a chain of ownership and trace a firearm from owner to owner when it is suspected in a crime.

Testing negligent shooters for intoxication is a local version of "Genna's Law," which the Legislature rejected earlier this year.

Councilman Paul Cunningham led the campaign to pass the law this legislative session, but it never made it out of committee.

Cunningham said the measure will help police perform their jobs more effectively and encourage responsible gun ownership.

State law already prohibits the negligent firing of guns.

While the Tucson ordinance provides no criminal penalty, it allows police officers to collect additional evidence that could be used in court to support a criminal-negligence charge.

Last March, Councilman Steve Kozachik proposed that Tucson enact a portion of the law as a way to honor the memory of Genna Ayup, 27, who was fatally shot by her boyfriend last summer while he was putting a rubber grip on a loaded handgun.

The boyfriend admitted to drinking three or four 23-ounce beers at a bar before returning home. The Pima County Attorney's Office deemed the shooting accidental.

Kozachik said the new ordinance also highlights how the state has once again failed when it comes to passing common-sense gun laws.

"Given the pre-emptions in state law, we did what we could to send a message to people that we in the city of Tucson do not embrace shooting while drinking. Same sort of idea as driving while drinking," Kozachik said.

Civil Unions

The City Council unanimously approved preparation of an ordinance empowering the issuance of civil-union certificates to domestic partners, giving couples who can't marry a place to record any contracts they've agreed to and greater recognition of their relationship.

The measure is expected to come back to the council this summer for final approval.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said if the state and federal government won't extend rights to same-sex couples, Tucson should do all it can.

"Thousands of Tucson residents, like me, do not have the right to marry our chosen loved ones in Arizona," Uhlich said through tears. "We do, however, have the right to enter into committed relationships and to do our best to ensure our intentions and our agreements underlying those civil unions be honored."

Tucson was the first city in Arizona to set up a domestic-partner registry in 2003. But it offered little in tangible benefits.

Under the new ordinance, couples can file contracts regarding inheritance rights, power of attorney, living wills and more. The idea is to give couples who can't marry a document listing their commitments with a stamp of approval from the city.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said as long as the city doesn't offer rights reserved for married couples, the measure should not violate state law.

Since the city enacted its original registry on Dec. 1, 2003, it has issued 1,268 domestic-partnership certificates.

West-side Development

The Gadsden Co., which holds exclusive rights to develop city land just west of the Santa Cruz River, will have additional time to complete the final phases of its $3.3 million project.

The City Council voted 6-1 to give the company, which has seen its development plans stalled in the wake of the recession, a third reprieve on deadlines to get certain phases of the 14-acre project done.

But in return, the company must post a $1 million bond in case it fails to meet future obligations. The city also gets out of having to spend about $500,000 to bring an excavated part of the property to grade.

Gadsden and the city agreed five years ago for the company to buy and develop land just west of downtown in four phases. The company planned to develop apartments, a hotel and commercial buildings, but then the housing market collapsed.

When the developer missed deadlines, the city granted an extension, and then allowed the developer to make changes to Phase 1 of the plan two years ago.

The company was supposed to have completed Phase 2 earlier this month. The new deadline is June 14. Gadsden will also be allowed to spread $3 million in payments that were due this month out over several years.

To speed the project, Phases 3 and 4 will now be combined. Development on the consolidated final phase must begin by June 2014..

Couincilwoman Regina Romero said the new agreement is fair for both the city and Gadsden and will produce results on the west side.

Kozachik opposed the extension, citing the history of rewritten deals and other issues.

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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