By Brendan Fischer on January 15, 2013

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is threatening legal action if the Tucson Police Department tries to destroy the guns it acquired through a voluntary gun buyback program -- thanks to legislation advanced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and then passed in Arizona.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook, Connecticut massacre, cities around the country held voluntary gun buybacks: community-wide events where local law enforcement offers small incentives like gift cards or cash in exchange for citizens turning in their unwanted guns. Tucson officials offered $50 Safeway grocery store gift cards (funded by private donors) and collected 206 firearms. But the NRA wants those guns back in circulation.

"If they destroy [the guns], they will be in violation of state law," said Arizona gun lobbyist and national NRA Board member Todd Rathner.

ALEC Model Disrupts Gun Buyback in Arizona

That Arizona law prohibits law enforcement from destroying firearms they obtain through gun buybacks or confiscation, instead mandating that they auction the guns to dealers.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer -- an ALEC alum -- signed the legislation in April of 2012, and the NRA released a statement applauding Brewer and the Arizona legislators who voted for it.

Just a few months earlier, the corporations and legislators on the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force had adopted a version of the "Firearms Destruction Prevention Act" (also known as the "Disposition of Firearms in State and Local Custody Act") as a "model," at the behest of the NRA. Both the ALEC/NRA model and the Arizona law have the same functional impact.

When the bill was introduced in the Arizona state Senate, twenty out of its twenty-six sponsors were known ALEC members. As the Center for Media and Democracy (publisher of PRWatch) has documented, Arizona ranks among the top states in the country in terms of legislators receiving corporate-funded "scholarships" for trips to ALEC meetings, where they rub shoulders with special interest lobbyists at fancy resorts.

ALEC and NRA "Jump the Shark"

The public safety benefit from gun buybacks are clear: people with young children (or disturbed family members) can get guns out of their house, unwanted weapons are not sitting and waiting for misuse, and the total number of guns in circulation is reduced in a calm, legal, orderly manner. As Rachel Maddow has noted, gun buybacks are "low-hanging fruit" -- an entirely voluntary, non-coercive program that ought to be politically attainable.

"When your response to the political cliche of low-hanging fruit is something so cartoonishly insensitive, so cartoonishly villainous, you then bring upon us a second political cliche -- you have jumped the shark," Maddow noted.

"This is the sort of thing that might make sense internally to the NRA when they talk about this amongst themselves about this issue, but the rest of the country are not picking a fight, but instead just looking for problem-solving, non-confrontational ways to help each other out. Trying to block the voluntary Tucson gun buyback program does not make sense."

Despite Denials, Koch Had Role in ALEC Gun Policy

"Koch has had no role in any ALEC-sponsored legislation concerning gun laws," Koch Industries declared in a statement released after the Sandy Hook shooting.

But according to Bloomberg News, which reported on the August 2011 ALEC meeting, the ALEC task force that adopted the "Firearms Destruction Prevention Act" as a model bill included representatives of Koch Industries. And as the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves has documented, Koch Industries was a member of ALEC's Criminal Justice/Public Safety & Elections Task Force for many years (until it was disbanded), where Koch would have had a vote on approving all model bills, including the NRA's gun bills. The NRA's gun agenda also flourished during the many years that Koch representatives sat on ALEC's national corporate board, and even during the period when Koch Industries chaired ALEC's board.

Last year, ALEC announced it was disbanding that task force, which had been responsible for spreading restrictions on voting rights and versions of the "Stand Your Ground"/"Castle Doctrine" law that was initially cited to protect Trayvon Martin's killer. However, the task force's legislative chair, then-Representative Jerry Madden, admitted that its work would continue, and ALEC has done nothing to urge the repeal of state laws that were modeled after bills approved by the task force.

ALEC claims to be interested in "small government," so it is curious that it would promote legislation that puts the state in the position of being an arms dealer. But this bill is yet another example of how the NRA and ALEC have promoted legislation to advance a narrow agenda at the expense of public safety.

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD's General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Comments

Gun buy backs are a great way to get guns off the streets and these republicans, ALEC and the NRA always have their right wing evil all over everything that would make Americans safe.

These guns should be recycled into art, jewelry, bridges, infrastructure, metal water bottles, it's called reduce, reuse, recycle

Sir, why would selling LEGAL guns acquired through a buyback program to legitimate dealers be an EVIL move? It seems to me that this would be a most respectable way of funding these programs while still removing unwanted weapons. The only ILLEGAL guns most of these things draw are guns stolen simply to get the buy back money, or a wartime keepsake. Ask any of the buybacks how many machine guns or actual heavy weapons they have recovered, and I am betting those numbers will be very low. They do get a LOT of handguns that were legally acquired by a family member somewhere along the line, as well as the occasional very valuable antique. When they are required to destroy ALL seized weapons, that puts some keepsakes in the same category as a saturday night special.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

Given that the fundamental purpose of a buyback is to permanently remove guns from circulation, reselling them is an obvious absurdity. It renders the whole project invalid. It doesn't matter if the gun is "illegal" or not. Every gun should be destroyed. There's no such thing as a keepsake when it can kill you. Honestly, when are you Yanks going to start using a little common sense?

If there's a state law stating that guns obtained via a gun buyback program cannot be destroyed then why do you think you're above the law and may have them destroyed? The ends *do not* justify the means.

Note that I'm not saying the law necessarily makes sense. But there's a process for changing the law and you're expected to utilize it. You can't just reason "I don't like that law" and willfully ignore it. Just what kind of anarchy are you advocating?

So the 1911A1 carried by, engraved and given to a Medal of Honor recipient isn't a keepsake? When President Theodore Roosevelt's stolen Peacemaker showed up in a buyback, should it have been destroyed?

Are guns sacred to these people, or what?

Shouldn't the owners of guns (the police, once they buy them) be able to do whatever they like with them? Including destroy them?

Isn't that the basic premise of private property, upon which our entire society is based?

A corporation is a person. A fertilized ovum is a person. A gun is a person. ("You will give your rifle a girl's name.")

A first-grader...not so much.

Dont call it a buy-back. Set the arrangement at a metal facility with a small crusher...the person with the gun drops the weapon in a bin and pushes a button to operate the crusher. On their way out, the person is given a debit card with a specified amount in the account IF THEY WANT IT.

NRA management are scumbag con-artists.

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