On the heels of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, the Tucson City Council is seeking local control of its gun laws.
So it's imploring the state Legislature to amend a statute that prohibits cities from enacting stricter gun ordinances than state law allows.
The current law prevents cities from banning guns in public parks or other places not specifically outlined in state statute. It also limits the amount a municipality can assess for violating a gun law.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said this is an egregious usurpation of local control by the state that needs to end. Which is why he and Councilwoman Karin Uhlich sponsored a memorial at the last council meeting asking the legislature to remove that section of the law "as a first order of business in the 2013 session."
"They pre-empted our jurisdiction's ability to regulate guns," Kozachik said. "I want them to rescind that provision and give us back the ability to make these decisions locally."
Tucsonans should be able to decide where they want to allow firearms and they shouldn't be held hostage to dictums from Phoenix, Kozachik said.
"If it makes you feel safer to have guns in parks in Maricopa County, fine," Kozachik said. "But what I've heard in this community is we don't need people armed to the hilt."
Adding further urgency to this issue, Uhlich said, is the legislature may revive a bill from last session that would allow guns on college campuses.
"Guns would have to be allowed on campuses and schools," Uhlich said, who is co-sponsoring the memorial to rescind the law with Kozachik. "We ought to have the ability to exercise local control over public spaces like parks."
Kozachik said the council at its last meeting directed the city staff to draft a memorial asking for the Legislature to exhibit some intellectual honesty on this issue.
"The state Legislature took away our ability to make local decisions related to firearms. They cry foul when the feds pass bills that take away 'states rights' but are total hypocrites when they claim the high ground and do the same to cities and counties," Kozachik said. "There is absolutely no compelling state interest in Phoenix deciding whether people should have the right to carry weapons into Reid Park, or onto the University of Arizona campus. Those are local decisions and I want them to be intellectually consistent … and stop meddling in our affairs."
With 26 new faces in the state House this session, it's anyone's guess how the votes will line up, according to Rep. Bruce Wheeler.
"Obviously there was support in the past. But this year, who knows," said Wheeler, a Tucson Democrat.
Although he is uncertain about his colleagues intentions, Wheeler said he will be pushing for local control throughout the session.
"I am tired of having big daddy state government tell municipalities and local jurisdictions how to run their affairs," Wheeler said. "It's everything from when you can hold an election to bonding authorities … The legislature continues to be hypocritical in interfering with local jurisdictions: school boards, cities, counties, the Marana treatment plant, the list is long … I'm in favor of local control so I favor a city's ability to enact it's own laws."
Republican Rep.-elect Ethan Orr said he couldn't comment on the specific legislation because he hadn't seen it, but he is willing to work with local officials as they try to make their communities safer.
"I want to work with them to make schools safer and to have a properly funded and robust mental health system," said Orr, who will represent a district that stretches across most of the northwest side.
No easy fix
Even though there is no panacea to prevent mass shootings, Kozachik said, it's at least time we have a serious discussion concerning guns instead of dancing around the issue.
"There is no single solution to the carnage we are seeing," Kozachik said. "Everybody knows that there's not a single fix to this problem. We have to get serious about treatment for the mentally ill, about the effects of antidepressants … and the drugs that we're stuffing into, generally, young boys. So there are multiple moving pieces to this thing."
But, guns are a part of it, Kozachik said, and we shouldn't be cajoled by special interests into believing they're not.
"I'm tired of hearing the gun advocates say that's not a factor in the conversation," he said. "What the gun lobby refuses to even recognize is that there's also the issue of the proliferation in our society of guns and magazines that hold multiple rounds that are intended for one purpose only - killing lots of people in a short amount of time."
"I'm tired of hearing the true believers saying that I'm going after their Second Amendment rights," he said. "With rights come responsibilities. The same is true of speech and assembly. There are legitimate and totally legal conditions a governing body can place around the exercise of those rights. Those conditions should reflect the will of the local community, not the state."
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org