I made seven phone calls just now. It took about ten minutes. It garnered three answering machines and four real, live humans. It was civic engagement at its most basic level. It felt great. If only HB 2544 weren't so frightening, I'd be pretty happy with myself right now.
Arizona's legislature is, once again, boggling the imagination. The House has passed this already; I was calling before the hearing in the Senate which takes place as you are reading this essay. Weep along with me as you see what is moving along the path to being enacted:
This bill will require ALL police departments in the state to sell to gun dealers, and put back on the street, ANY and ALL GUNS acquired by the departments including those surrendered or voluntarily turned in.That's right, denizens. Instead of destroying the guns turned in at Gun Buy Back Days, local jurisdictions will be forced to put those puppies right back out on the streets. It's almost as if the framers of the bill think the weapons have feelings, and will cry out in terror as they approach the smelter. I wish they were thinking about those of us who've encountered the business end of a Glock 9mm with as much sympathy.
This Republican backed bill seems to fly in the face of local control; where is the hue and cry about Big Government now, I wonder? If a citizen decides to turn in a weapon, how can the legislature justify overriding her desires to have the thing destroyed? These were the questions I posed to the Senate staffers to whom I spoke (or on whose machines I left messages). No one had an answer.
My first three calls reached answering machines; I'm trying not to draw any conclusions about the fact that they were all Republicans and that all the Democrats had live humans answering the phones. I was nearly batting 1000 until the young woman in the office of Sen. Shooter (yes, that's his name and no, I couldn't make this stuff up) said "Hello."
I left thoughtful, impassioned-but-stopping-short-of-hysterical messages. How will this make me safer? How does this square with respecting the rights of local municipalities to draw their own distinctions between what is right and what is wrong for their communities? How does this further the conversation about sensible gun control legislation?
I asked. No one could answer. "He hasn't discussed this with me." "I have seen nothing on this subject today." "We've had no discussions about this, that I am aware of, anyway." Everyone promised to call me back; even the machines told me that I could expect a call back with an answer. Hours have passed. No one has responded.
So, I am left to wonder. It helps to remember that this is the same body which declared the Colt Revolver to be the State Gun just two weeks after a Glock took down 19 of its citizens who were participating in democracy in action. The chilling effect that had on my participation is easy to document; I turned down a chance to testify before the Senate of the United States because my family was concerned about putting my face on such a divisive issue. "The other side has guns, Mom," was all it took to convince me.
It feels like muscle flexing, with a bit of "Oh, yeah?" thrown in for good measure. I'm disturbed and uncomfortable and unable to come up with a good reason for this bill. I keep coming around to a variation of "we've got the power and we'll show you how we use it."
There's some small measure of hope; the Republican super-majority which insured passage of Republican sponsored bills no longer exists. There is a small but vocal cadre of Democrats who are occasionally joined by forward thinking members of the opposite party who have been able to stop some of the more egregious efforts to diminish our state's reputation. They cannot do it alone. They won't do it if they think they are alone.
So, I will ask those of you who live in Arizona to get on the bandwagon and make a call or two or six. I'm copying the information below this post. If you are so inclined, read it and dial away. The hearing is at 2pm on Wednesday (today, if you're reading this as it's posted). Somebody ought to be paying attention by now.
Together, we can make a difference. If my story has touched your heart, why not let your fingers touch the phone?
Wednesday March 20th, the Senate Public Safety Committee is considering HB 2455 -- a measure that passed the Arizona House last week. This bill will require ALL police departments in the state to sell to gun dealers, and put back on the street, ANY and ALL GUNS acquired by the departments including those surrendered or voluntarily turned in.
This bill not only takes away a citizen's decision to have their unwanted weapons destroyed, but it trumps local government policies that allow police to destroy weapons. Passage of this legislation will virtually stop any future gun buybacks -- an ironic legislative move since AzGS is receiving a $100,000 anonymous donation to run a large gun buyback program during the month of May in partnership with the Phoenix Police Department and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix.
Please help stop HB 2455 from passing by:
- attending the Senate Public Safety Committee Hearing March 20th, 2:00pm in SHR 109 to show widespread opposition to this bill. Signup at the kiosk outside the hearing room and enter the bill number and your opposition. You will also have the choice to testify against HB 2455.
- calling Senators on the Public Safety Committee to tell them you are an Arizona resident opposed to HB 2455. Call before tomorrow at 2:00pm. Ask others to call and do the same. Here are the reasons you can give --
This is a local control issue - local governments like the City of Phoenix and City of Tucson have policies in place requiring police to destroy weapons acquired voluntarily from citizens. If some local governments want to sell weapons, they can. The legislature should not be dictating to the locals what is a local matter.
Arizona ranks in the top 10 states with the highest gun death rates -- a rate that's 40% higher than the national average. It's time we change direction and implement sensible gun policies that the citizens want.
Sen. Rich Crandall (R-16), Chair 602-926-3020
Sen. Al Melvin (R-11), Vice-Chair 602-926-4326
Sen. Ed Ableser (D-26) 602-926-4118
Sen. Gail Griffin (R-14) 602-926-5895
Sen. Barbara McGuire (D-8) 602-926-5836
Sen. Lynne Pancrazi (D-4) 602-926-3004
Sen. Don Shooter (R-13) 602-926-4139
We must speak up loud and clear and tell our legislators to act NOW for sensible gun legislation.
Let your voices be heard. Together we can make a difference and save lives.