Brewer signs gun buy-back bill, halts destruction of weapons turned into cities - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Brewer signs gun buy-back bill, halts destruction of weapons turned into cities

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:02 pm | Updated: 6:46 am, Mon Sep 8, 2014.

Any chance of cities or counties conducting future gun-buyback programs is about to evaporate.

Without comment, Gov. Jan Brewer late Monday signed legislation aimed specifically at halting the practice of Tucson of allowing residents to surrender their weapons to police with the guarantee they will be destroyed. Instead, the law which takes effect later this year, requires that any weapons which come into a city's possession have to be sold off, with the profits used to bolster the local treasury.

Brewer's signature was not a surprise: Since becoming governor in 2009 she had signed two other laws limiting the ability of cities and counties to destroy the weapons that come into their possession.

And there also was strong lobbying for her to do what she did: The governor's office reported Brewer got more than 1,900 pleas for her to sign the measure, in the form of e-mails, letters and calls.

That effort was organized by the Arizona Citizens Defense League which sent out notices to those on its mailing list urging them to click on a link to send a letter to Brewer. Gubernatorial press aide Ann Dockendorff said many of these appear to be the same basic form.

By contrast, Dockendorff said there were only 25 messages to Brewer urging her to veto it.

No one from the governor's office would comment late Monday on her action.

But Brewer has consistently referred to herself as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. And the only gun-rights bills she has vetoed in her time in office have dealt with taking weapons onto school campuses and into public buildings.

She did, though, sign a measure four years ago letting those with concealed-weapons permits bring their firearms into bars and places where alcohol is served, as long as they promise not to drink.

Brewer separately signed another bill Monday which spells out that local governments are strictly prohibited from keeping lists of those who own or otherwise possess firearms. That expands on existing statutes which say cities cannot track buyers, sellers or others who transfer a gun.

At this point, there is no evidence any city is keeping such a list. But proponents said they want to be sure that government never gets a chance to compile one.

Only police "in the course of a law enforcement investigation'' could have records of firearms ownership.

The gun-buyback provision, by contrast, does affect an existing practice. And its proponents made it clear they were looking to restrain Tucson and the loophole in current laws its attorneys claim to have found.

Those prior laws -- the ones Brewer signed -- already require governments to sell weapons that have been seized. Those laws also cover "found property'' which is defined as anything recovered, lost or abandoned that is not needed as evidence.

The only exception is for weapons that are illegal, such as sawed-off shotguns.

Despite that, Tucson has taken the position it is able to obtain -- and destroy -- weapons given voluntarily to police. The most recent buyback, in January, resulted in the collection of 206 weapons, with owners given $50 Safeway gift card.

This new law blocks that by adding the word "surrendered'' to what is considered found property, meaning that it must be sold off.

Senate President Andy Biggs, a proponent of the legislation, said nothing in the law keeps the owner of a firearm from having it destroyed. The only difference, he said, is that this would have to be done privately, without involvement of municipal employees.

Weapons that do come into city possession are not auctioned off to the general public but instead must be sold to a federally licensed firearm dealer. And those dealers are required to conduct background checks before selling off a gun.

Opponents had sought to blunt the legislation with a proposal to allow communities to have buybacks if the owner of the weapon specifically says he or she wants it destroyed and there are no public funds involved. But Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, said any weapons a city or county acquire are "assets'' and should be sold off to help balance budgets.

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