Arizona Will Use Gun Buyback Programs to Rearm Arizona

Arizona is the first state in the union to take guns off the streets in order to put guns on the streets. That logic will probably be contagious.

Gun control is all a matter of keeping your machinegun steady in Arizona. (Photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Apr 30, 2013
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Arizona is among the most progressive states in America, a leader in legislative innovations, although those innovations may be progressing in the wrong direction.

Governor Jan Brewer’s latest forward-thinking action was to sign House Bill 2455 into law. The statute makes Arizona the first state in the union, and perhaps the only legislative entity in the world, to require that weapons collected in gun buyback programs be turned over to licensed gun sellers and sold to the public.

Selling buyback guns sets up a mechanism for sales that keep on selling. How long before a weapon purchased at a sale of buyback guns is handed over to Arizona officials at a subsequent buyback event, giving that gun the opportunity to be sold once more and, of course, bought back again at a later date?

It’s as if Governor Brewer has achieved a system of small-arms perpetual motion!

This miracle of never-ending weapons recycling was unlikely to have sprung to life anywhere in America outside of Arizona. In every other U.S. locality that stages gun buyback events, the weapons turned in are destroyed. Guns are snapped, crushed, melted, transformed into scrap metal.

In an ideal scenario, some effort would be made to ensure that these licensed dealers place those guns in good homes. Unfortunately, Arizona’s gun sellers function outside of an ideal scenario.

Gun buyback programs have been operating in the United States on a city-by-city basis for decades. Typically, police departments, churches or other civic organizations will offer cash, food cards or other incentives to residents who turn in firearms. The exchange is made with an understanding that the guns will be destroyed or otherwise permanently removed from circulation by police.

Under Arizona’s fantastically counterintuitive new policy, guns turned in with the aim of creating one less armed person on the street will be sold to arm one more person on the street.

HB 2355’s leap in logic—if the term logic can be applied to the thinking codified in the bill—was a short one. Arizona already required that weapons seized in criminal investigations be transferred to the state’s licensed gun dealers for public sale.

In an ideal scenario, some effort would be made to ensure that these licensed dealers place those guns in good homes. Unfortunately, Arizona’s gun sellers function outside of an ideal scenario.

A depressing quantity of guns used in perpetuating Mexico’s massively lethal drug war has been traced to Arizona’s licensed gun dealers, including 1,700 assault rifles allowed to flow south of the border and into drug cartel armories in the disastrous Fast and Furious sting operation. Two of the “lost” rifles were found near the body of a slain United States Border Patrol agent, Brian A. Terry.

Weapons obtained in gun buybacks, reasonable stakeholders mistakenly presumed, would be exempt from being passed along to dealers for resale. After all, to sell those killer items would violate the stated purpose of a gun buyback program—which is to remove agents of death from a community.

Statistics that prove the efficacy of gun buybacks are rare, to the point of nonexistent. But the theory makes a strong impression: If a gun is not in a law-abiding citizen’s home to be accessed in a moment of heightened anguish or domestic contention, or mistaken as a plaything by a child or teen, or stolen by a burglar and fired at a human in the course of a crime, then these tragedies will not be visited upon that gun-free household.

However, gun advocates argue that disarming individual residences within a neighborhood reduces that cul-de-sac’s collective ability to ward off marauding hordes.

Depending on which side of the disarmament debate has greater appeal to you, the lesson learned here might be to remain outside of shooting distance from Arizona. Except history teaches that Arizona’s bright ideas have triggered light-bulb moments in a string of state legislatures throughout the land.

In 2010, Governor Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, a bill requiring every cop in the state to determine the immigration status of any resident or visitor when “reasonable suspicion” existed that the person might not be in the U.S. legally. Opponents contended that this “reasonable suspicion” looked a lot like brown skin.

In the time it took the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold SB 1070, more than 20 copycat bills had been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

Does reselling guns obtained in buyback events defeat the purpose of the event? If so, should gun buybacks be discontinued? Unravel the logic in COMMENTS.

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