Ignorance may be bliss for some, but when we’re talking about elected officials who have no clue about the law it’s more embarrassing than blissful. Sadly, that appears to be the case in Tucson, and the local media seems just as uninformed as some of the city council members themselves.
Last week a professor at the University of Arizona was shot and killed on campus by a former student who’d been expelled and banned from campus property. Unfortunately that ban didn’t stop him from allegedly strolling into the university’s Harshbarger Building and shooting professor Tom Meixner in cold blood. In the wake of the killing, one Tucson city council member claims the murder could have been prevented if the university had only communicated with the city and local law enforcement beforehand.
“If the U of A had brought or somebody would have brought this to us and said this guy has a history of threats and should not be possessing a firearm, and went so far as to get orders of protection against this guy, we would have run with that case,” said Tucson city council member Steve Kozachik.
The city would have had to take the case to federal court which Kozachik says it would have done.
“The city attorney is not standing on street corners with a sign saying bring us your red flag cases but you know we are certainly looking for and we are certainly willing to prosecute red flag laws,” he said.
So far, the city has not taken a case to federal court because it has not been asked to but that will likely change in the future. That’s when the city will see how the state might react.
“We are not afraid to get sued by the State of Arizona over this,” Kozachik said. “We want to save people’s lives.”
Whether than might have been the case here, we will never know but the city will keep pressing forward.
“We are going to follow federal gun laws, that’s what we affirmed,” he said. “The city attorney has affirmed and indication that those red flag laws, we will take those cases to a federal judge.”
Here’s the biggest problem with Kozachik’s argument: there is no federal red flag law that the city could have used to try to confiscate the suspect’s firearms beforehand. While the Safer Communities Act that was signed into law earlier this year contains federal grant money to states to implement their own red flag laws, the law didn’t establish any sort of federal process by which firearms can be taken from their legal owners through an Extreme Risk Protection Order. The gun control law that Kozachik is vowing to enforce simply doesn’t exist.
The city council member should have known this, especially if he’s been in contact with the city attorney’s office. Moreover, if the reporter who covered Kozachik’s comments had done just a little bit of leg work they would have realized that the city council member was spouting nonsense. They could have pushed back on his baseless assertions instead of amplifying them, which is unfortunately what happened here.
While Kozachik is longing for a law that’s not on the books, he’s ignoring the fact that Arizona does have a civil commitment law that could have been used in this case, at least if U of A had any evidence that the suspect posed a danger to himself or others. If a court had agreed, the suspect could have been required to receive treatment on either an outpatient or inpatient basis (depending on the severity of the threat). It doesn’t appear that the state’s civil commitment law was ever invoked against the suspect, so either there wasn’t enough evidence to report to police (in which case a hypothetical red flag petition wouldn’t have been granted either) or someone dropped the ball.
I have no earthly idea why Kozachik would say that the city is prepared to enforce a federal gun law that exists only in the imagination of anti-gun advocates, but I do know that he looks like a fool as a result. Instead of spouting off to the press, I’d encourage him to take a look at the Arizona State Statutes and familiarize himself with the laws in the state… including the civil commitment law that’s apparently skipped his attention.