Tucson could be one of the first communities in the country to ban the sale and possession of so-called rifle “bump stocks” after the Las Vegas rampage that killed 58 people and left hundreds seriously wounded at a country music festival.
Councilman Steve Kozachik has placed an item on the Oct. 24 City Council agenda to discuss outlawing the aftermarket hardware modification that replaces the stock of a rifle to allow it to fire nearly as fast as a machine gun.
On Friday, Kozachik said he was tired of waiting for federal or state officials to step in and outlaw the accessory, whose sole function is to allow a rifle to fire more bullets.
“We’ve waited on the state and Congress to act on any of this stuff since 20 little kids were killed in Newtown (Connecticut). We waited on them after Orlando, where 49 people were shot, dozens more in Aurora (Colorado) and our own on Jan. 8,” 2011, he said. “So my sense is again, let’s show them what leadership looks like.”
The request — sent to city staff on Friday — has not undergone legal review by the city attorney, although Kozachik said he is confident he has the political support to make bump stocks illegal in the city.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said he would support a ban on the device. “If we can, we should. What a horrible invention,” he said.
Kozachik was one of three Democrats on the City Council uncomfortable with reversing a decades-old policy of destroying firearms seized by police or turned in by citizens. A four-person council majority reversed the decision after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the policy violated a state law that required seized guns to be auctioned off to federally licensed gun dealers.
A newer law, SB 1487, would have allowed the state to withhold state shared revenues from any city or town that refuses to follow state law.
City Attorney Mike Rankin did not return a call for comment about the legality of the proposed ordinance to ban bump stocks.
Mia Garcia, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, declined to discuss the issue, saying her office has neither an ordinance nor a request from a legislator to review the legality of such a law, since nothing has been approved by the city.
But Todd Rathner, a lobbyist for the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, said the council should consider the last legal battle it lost with the state over guns before deciding on banning the devices.
“The last time they tried to regulate firearms, the city of Tucson was handed a historically devastating and unanimous ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court, which cost taxpayers $100,000 in legal fees,” he said.
“The current adventure they are considering could cost taxpayers Tucson’s portion of state-shared revenue. It’s pathetic the City Council wants to risk taxpayer dollars over banning a firearm accessory that they know they have no authority to regulate.”
Since the Arizona Supreme Court decision, state lawmakers have made two new SB 1487-related challenges. One is related to the city of Phoenix’s general orders related to immigration, while another challenges Bisbee’s restrictions on plastic bags.
Kozachik said he would support a repeal of a city bump-stock ordinance in favor of a statewide ban if one is passed.
“If the state Legislature wants to take us to task on this, then that will simply force their hand to take their own leadership role on it,” he said.
Mariano Rodriguez, a Republican running against Kozachik for the Ward 6 seat in the Nov. 7 general election, said it is too early to politicize the shooting rampage in Las Vegas. “Let the country mourn,” he said.
Rodriguez said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and would like to see common-sense discussions on how to keep the country safe.
“I wish people like Nancy Pelosi and Steve K. would focus on the root of the problem rather than always blaming the Second Amendment,” Rodriguez said, adding that lawmakers should focus on the people behind these crimes.
Kozachik, a Democrat running for his third term, has long led the council on gun-safety issues. He organized a gun buy-back program several years ago, and pushed to require background checks on private gun sales as well as banning the sale of high-capacity clips at the Tucson Convention Center.