Word from the National Rifle Association that it may fight a planned voluntary gun-buyback program in Tucson raises the obvious question: Is there any effort to get guns off the streets that the gun lobby won't oppose?
The notion that the buyback event infringes on an individual's right to bear arms is ludicrous. People who choose to participate turn in a gun beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday to the Tucson Police Department Midtown Substation and receive a $50 Safeway gift card.
Yet the mere notion that someone might organize a way for a person who no longer wants a gun to dispose of that firearm, and know that it will be safely destroyed, has sent the NRA and supporters into a tizzy.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, a Republican from Ward 6, has put together the buyback program. He's collected about $7,000 in donations. Safeway, the grocery chain, has contributed $1,000, and it should be commended for its dedication to stopping gun violence.
It was in front of a Safeway, you may remember, that a young man opened fire almost two years ago. He used his semiautomatic weapon, outfitted with the extended bullet clip, to murder six Tucsonans and injure 13 more.
Safeway is demonstrating corporate leadership by supporting the buyback program.
We must not allow people who refuse to see the damage that guns can, and do, perpetuate in our communities to go unanswered. They may be loud, but they do not speak for all Tucsonans, and they should not be the only voices heard.
We keep pointing out that this program is voluntary because that's what makes the opposition so puzzling. If you don't want to exchange a gun for a Safeway card, then don't. It's that simple. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.
The buyback is a tiny step toward helping to solve a complex problem with violence. Why the overreaction?
The opinion of the NRA, as expressed by Tucsonan Todd Rathner, a gun lobbyist who is on the NRA's national board, is that TPD must sell the guns instead of destroying them. A state law requires police departments to sell seized weapons to any authorized business, and Rathner stated that means TPD can't dispose of guns from the buyback.
Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin disagrees and said TPD can legally destroy the guns.
But take note how Rathner uses the word "we" in his statement to the Star's Darren DaRonco, when talking about TPD destroying guns:
"If they destroy them, they will be in violation of state law," he said. "If they are in violation of state law, we will see them in a courtroom or we will change the law and have them sanctioned financially.
"If we can pass legislation faster, we'll pass a law that says we'll charge the city of Tucson and the Police Department some exorbitant amount of money for every firearm they destroy," he said. "We'll pursue it either through litigation or legislation."
The NRA's imperious attitude - "we'll pass a law" - is odious. The blatant assumption that Arizona lawmakers would do its bidding is an insult, even to legislators who agree with them.
Supporters of the gun-buyback program, and similar efforts, must make their sentiments known.
People and businesses that support community safety, as Safeway is doing, should know that their efforts are appreciated.
And it is up to Arizonans who do not agree with the NRA to make sure that our elected officials remember that they work for us, not the gun lobby.
Arizona Daily Star