On Tuesday, as churches and fire stations rang bells to remember the victims of the Tucson shooting in 2011, the National Rifle Association was busy vowing to protect the guns that destroyed the lives of those victims.
As the Tucson Police Department held a gun buyback program on the anniversary of the shootings that critically injured Gabrielle Giffords, the NRA pleaded with officials and argued that destroying the firearms would violate Arizona law.
Police planned on destroying the 206 guns that were turned in. They checked the weapons to make sure they hadn’t been stolen or used in a crime, and in turn, the people were given $50 Safeway grocery store cards.
But the lobbyists are raining on the parade, threatening to sue if the guns are not put back into circulation.
Todd Rathner, an Arizona lobbyist and a national board member of the NRA, may sue. He has no problem with the gun buyback, but he does have a problem with the fate of the guns once police take possession of them.
“We do believe that it is illegal for them to destroy those guns,” he says.
Rathner says Arizona state law forces local governments to sell seized or abandoned property to the highest bidder.
“If property has been abandoned to the police, then they are required by ARS 12-945 to sell it to a federally licensed firearms dealer, and that’s exactly what they should do,” he says.
Officials say that the NRA is misreading the law. But Rathner says the organization will ask for an accounting of every weapon and then stop them from being destroyed. If not, he said, the NRA will just help change the law.
“We just go back and we tweak it and tune it up, and we work with our friends in the Legislature and fix it so they can’t do it,” Rathner adds.
The weapons have not been destroyed as of yet. What may become of them is still unclear.
Change the law? That just goes to show you how much of a stronghold the NRA has on lawmakers. Scary.