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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ unlikely to pass red flag law with GOP-controlled legislature


“Gun Show” by M&R Glasgow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the ongoing and heated battle for gun control throughout the country, the Arizona State Legislature has yet to agree on public safety reforms to stop increased gun violence. One of these reforms is the so-called red flag law. 

Red flag laws allow police, doctors and family members to legally take away someone’s firearms if they are considered a threat to themselves or others. This confiscation can last up to a year throughout evaluations of the person who had their guns confiscated. 

Two months after the fatal shooting on the UA campus of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences Department Chairman Thomas Meixner, the issue of gun safety continues to be a hot topic in Tucson. 

It is questionable if a red flag law would have prevented the shooting, which occurred in the Harshbarger Building at the University of Arizona on Oct. 5.

However, it could be years before Arizona tests the law. 

The red flag law debate has been locked into a political battle at the state capitol in Phoenix since 2018, when former Gov. Doug Ducey was elected for a second term. The Republican-led legislature has rejected efforts to pass the law and Ducey late in his term appeared to support that decision.

“There’s only so much we can do regarding legalities,” Pima County Attorney Laura Conover said.

Without a red flag law, the University of Arizona Police Department and Tucson Police Department’s hands were tied when it came to complaints from UA hydrology faculty regarding the suspected shooter, former hydrology graduate student Murad Dervish. 

“He did not meet specific requirements for the complaint the university filed. Therefore, it’s difficult to take action when there are laws that do not allow me or police enforcement to do more than what is presented to us,” Conover said. 

According to police reports, Dervish shot Meixner then fled the university. He was arrested several hours later near Gila Bend. Police said he appeared to be traveling to Mexico. 

Dervish was charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond. 

Pima County Supervisor Rex Scott said Ducey had worked with the legislature on a proposed red flag law bill as part of his public safety agenda, but the efforts were thwarted multiple times by the legislature’s Republican majority. 

“As a former educator myself, I understand the constant fear of the lack of gun safety, and it is something we must work on continuously until we get somewhere with this,” Scott said. 

At a 2020 conference in Lake Havasu, Ducey announced that there would be no red flag law as long as he was governor. He is finishing out his second term; Democrat Katie Hobbs was elected in November to replace him beginning in January. 

“I don’t know if, with this law, things could’ve resulted differently for [Meixner], but I will say that we need gun safety more now than ever,” Martha Whitaker, director of the UA hydrology program’s graduate studies, said. 

The Gun Violence Archive, a national independent research firm that focuses on mass shootings and other gun violence, reported 607 mass shootings nationwide this year alone. Arizona has had 11 of them.  

“This bill failed because we have elected officials that believe supporting the gun lobby is more important than protecting lives,” Democratic State Representative Alma Hernandez of Tucson said.

According to Hernandez, a red flag law is unlikely to pass soon due to the Republican-controlled legislature’s support for the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. 

“Gun violence has affected me personally, and I would gladly support and sponsor any legislation that the groups in our community feel would be helpful,” Hernandez said. “It has not been easy, but we must keep trying. We need red flag laws in Arizona to ensure firearms are not in the hands of those who should not have them.”

 *El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism. 

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