Saying that guns are public assets worth money, state senators voted Tuesday to close what they say are the last loopholes in the law allowing cities to destroy weapons that come into their possession.
The measure, which now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer, would most immediately slam the door on gun "buyback'' programs where cities like Tucson, using donated funds or gift cards, ask residents to surrender weapons that they would like destroyed.
Technically, cities could still offer to buy the guns.
But HB 2455 would require they instead be sold to federally licensed firearms dealers who then would offer them for resale. And Senate President Andy Biggs said at that point, the owners might just as well sell the guns themselves and pocket the cash.
The 18-12 vote came after an emotional debate which dealt with not only the latest change but the entire requirement that cities must sell off the weapons that come into their possession. At one point, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said the law has the effect of forcing law enforcement to sell off the Glock that Jared Loughner used to kill six in front of a Tucson Safeway and seriously wound Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
"I cannot imagine that the relatives of Judge (John) Roll, Christina-Taylor Green, Gabe Zimmerman or anyone else would ever want that gun in the possession of anyone else ever again,'' he said. "This has to do with the right of us as a society to determine that the selling of a gun used in a heinous crime would amount to blood money.''
Farley conceded later this legislation actually would not affect any of that, partly because Loughner was prosecuted in federal court and partly because the requirement of state courts to sell off weapons that had been seized actually had been approved by the Legislature in 2010.
But Farley said that makes no difference. He said the Republican-controlled Legislature has repeatedly sided with gun-rights activists and against the rights of victims and, in this case, local officials.
The 2010 law set the first restrictions against governments destroying weapons they have seized.
Last year, lawmakers new language which also covers "found property,'' defined as anything recovered, lost or abandoned that is not needed as evidence.
That, however, did not halt the buyback programs. Cities argued they retain the ability to obtain -- and destroy -- weapons given voluntarily to police. This legislation, which already has been approved by the House, seeks to block that by adding the word "surrendered'' to what is considered found and therefore must be sold off.
Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, said she has no problem with police selling guns. She said that's what occurs in her home down.
"My problem is we're taking away the rights of the local elected officials in the communities that they rerpesent from being permitted to make that decision,'' she said.
And Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, cited a study which linked loose gun laws to deaths by gun violence. She said that report says Arizona has the fourth highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.
But Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, said those seeking to destroy guns are missing the point.
"Many here in this body want to blame 30-round magazines and semi-automatic weapons for violence,'' she told colleagues. That, Burges said, is based on the desire to deal with things that can be controlled.
"Unfortunately, murder, violence and insanity are built in to the human condition and likely always will be,'' she said.
More to the point, Burges said limiting weapons ignores what she said is another fact.
"There are two types of animals: predators and prey,'' she said. "When we take away individuals' right to defend themselves we create more predators.''
Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, said his GOP colleagues, in rushing to protect guns from destruction, were making it "safer to be a gun than a child in this state.''
But Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, said it is wrong for either side to look at this as a debate about gun rights.
"It's about protecting taxpayers,'' he said.
"It deals with valuable property that is being destroyed,'' Murphy said. "What this comes down to is it's not appropriate to tell taxpayers that they must subsidize with their dollars the destruction of useful property for no good reason, to accomplish nothing other than make people feel good.''
Murphy also took a swat at Farley and his comments about how reselling guns might make the survivors of violent crimes feel.
He said he had been a mentor to a young man years ago who was killed by gang violence.
"And yet, I am not a slave to blind emotion,'' Murphy said.
"I do not believe that the gun had anything to do with the crime,'' he said. "It was the gang-banger who committed the crime.''
Brewer does not generally comment ahead of time on what she will do with legislation that goes to her. But it was Brewer who signed both the 2010 and 2012 laws limiting the destruction of weapons.