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.
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 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.