Monday, May 6, 2013

Gunning for that Number One Spot


In the four months since the Sandy Hook school massacre the debate around gun control has polarized a section of American opinion on the types of firearms available to the public for purchase, who should have access to them, and how difficult should it be to acquire one.  A paranoia persists amongst the American right wing that the Obama administration will be using the mass shootings as pretext to initiate a federal "gun grab."  Scenarios amongst the right have ranged from the President of the NRA alleging that the government will be going door to door to confiscate weapons, to a pair of US congressmen from Oklahoma who have charged the Obama administration are behind the months long ammunition shortage. The impact of the shortages on ammunition and firearm sales, when combined with an apocalyptic fear of the federal government carrying out a gun seizure (of majority white gun owners nonetheless), has resulted in handsome profits for the firearms industry.

While there has been no attempt at gun control in Arizona, proponents of firearms have responded to calls from right wing political organizations to mobilize at the state capitol for a series of rallies to denounce any potential "gun grab" by the federal government. Hundreds gathered at various rallies at  the Arizona state capitol to demonstrate against any proposed legislation to further regulate the sale of firearms, ammunition, and magazines by the federal government.  The rallies are a mixed crowd of gun enthusiasts, anti-immigrant biker gangs, border militia members, and political opportunists looking to capitalize from the far-right's latest bout of persecution complex.

The rallies at the state capitol were not in response to any specific gun control laws being passed in the Arizona state legislature since there is no chance any bills advance in the Republican majority, gun friendly legislature. Quite the opposite, in recent years the state legislature have passed a number of laws over the years which reinforce gun owners' rights, and facilitate the accessibility with which guns are available to purchase from dealers and private citizens.  It's not surprising that Arizona is considered the number one state to be a gun owner in the United States.

 The February 16th Second Amendment rally at the Arizona state capitol.

Arizona was recently ranked as the friendliest state for gun owners by Guns and Ammo Magazine based upon a criteria of a person's ability to open carry or carry a concealed weapon in public, the ability to purchase MSRs (Modern Sports Rifles) such as AR-15s and AK-47s without restriction, the lack of restrictions to obtain Class 3/NFA firearms beyond the federal law, the passing of Stand Your Ground laws regarding "self defense", and any other laws on the book which restrict gun or ammunition purchases.  In addition, Arizona is one of the top states for individuals who have applied for manufacturing licenses to begin producing or customizing firearms.

Arizona scored a near perfect score of 49 in the magazine's ranking, and this is in no small part due to Republican state legislators have sponsored a slew of pro-gun legislation in recent years.  While few of the more recent bills have made it to the governor's office for final approval in to law, there have been a handful of eye brow raising bills which made national news headlines. The most controversial bill is HB 2291 which would prohibit any federal law enforcement agent from enforcing federal gun laws in Arizona, making any such enforcement a Class 6 felony, and require local law enforcement to arrest the federal officer enforcing the law.  Given the supremacy clause of the US constitution it seems unlikely that legislators will approve the bill that is as likely a political stunt as it is a genuine attempt at secession.

Another which was passed last week prohibits city gun buy backs from destroying the weapons turned in, the new law will require cities to resell these firearms.  In Arizona it is the poor and working class who are compelled to disarm with offers of  "guns for groceries", however there is the Armed Citizens Project which seems keen to buck the perception of the white male gun owner by offering free shotguns in limited numbers to single women and homeowners in "high crime" neighborhoods in Tucson.

Most amusing are some of the hypotheticals of the state's slide into weaponization as a prescription for society's problems, for example could it be possible for working class and poor folks in the near future to turn in a firearm for a grocery credit, and, due to the "buy back" law, that same firearm could be back in their home courtesy of the Armed Citizens Project. It's a doubtful scenario, but the politic of the gun is a driving force in right wing ideology across the state and there may be unforeseen consequences to come from the push to the weaponization of Arizona.

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