This year, the gun debate dominated the Arizona legislature, overshadowing even illegal immigration, says the Arizona Republic. The session started just days after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others near Tucson. It ended with Gov. Jan Brewer vetoing two bills that would have made Arizona the most gun-friendly state in the nation. During the three months in between, the gun lobby worked tirelessly and wielded its considerable influence to try decreasing restrictions on Arizonans’ right to buy, own, carry and use firearms.
More than a dozen bills written by gun lobbyists were introduced this session. The lobbyists were a constant presence at the legislature. They carried with them the power of a political stance that conservative politicians in Arizona must support to remain electable, as well as the strength of thousands of members who made their opinions known via letters and e-mails. Three groups were behind most of the measures and carried the most influence: the Tucson-based non-profit Arizona Citizens Defense League, the Washington, D.C.-based National Rifle Association, and Tucson lobbyist Todd Rathner, who in the past has represented the NRA and this session worked with Colt’s Manufacturing Co. “I think for gun owners, this was probably a 60/40 year,” Rathner said. “In an environment where we had a terrible tragic mass shooting in Tucson, no anti-gun bills were passed. But, by the same token, we only passed a couple of good gun bills.”