by Jim Nintzel
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik is expecting a big crowd at his town hall tonight at the Loft Cinema.
In what he calls an effort to rebuild some of the community unity that existed in the wake of the shooting rampage that shook Tucson two years ago, Kozachik has brought together a long lineup of elected officials that are involved with his midtown Ward 6 office. (You can see the whole list here, but it includes members of Congress—or their representatives if they can make it—as well as members of the Arizona Legislature and the Pima County Board of Supervisors.)
The town hall, which begins at 7 p.m., will be emceed by Arizona Daily Star cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons, who has been brought on to keep the evening lively and prevent the elected officials from taking themselves too seriously, according to Kozachik, who reports that about 300 people have told his office they'll attend tonight.
Also promising to keep the evening lively: Republican Frank Antenori, who is giving up his seat in the state Senate next week after losing his reelection bid in a new district that included much of midtown Tucson, tells The Range he’s going to be there, too.
“I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” says Antenori, who expects to have about 200 of his conservative friends and allies at the Loft. “It’s gonna be pretty feisty, man.”
Antenori and Kozachik have clashed for years, including a contentious exchange on Arizona Public Media’s Political Roundtable in November.
But their battles have reached a new high in recent weeks as Kozachik first announced plans for the town hall and then began planning a city of Tucson gun buyback, where people who have guns they no longer want can turn them in to the city in exchange for a $50 Safeway gift card.
Antenori told the media last week that he and a few friends would be attending the gun buyback, scheduled for tomorrow morning, to try to outbid the city by setting up “kind of swap meet” where he and his fellow gun enthusiasts will provide anyone who wants to give up a gun with a better price than a “crummy” $50 Safeway gift certificate.
“This guy is taking advantage of people for political purposes and we’re going to give people a chance to part with their firearms for a more reasonable, fair price,” says Antenori, who believes that Kozachik is disrespecting the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting rampage by having the gun buyback.
Kozachik says that Antenori is the “person who is trying to make a stunt out of this. … I chose that date very specifically because two years ago, this community really came together, very unified with a sense of purpose. … We have Columbine and we talk about it for a week and then go on to the next news cycle. And then we have an Aurora, and then we have a Connecticut. This is explicitly intended to keep the conversation alive in this community at this time. And the fact that it’s getting such a negative blowback form some of these guys like Antenori and the NRA really just makes the point that this is a conversation that we have to have today in this community.”
Antenori says he’ll bring $500 to the buyback and knows other people who will be bringing more money. He’s hopeful that he and his allies won’t get into bidding contests that will drive up the price of guns. He plans to put whatever he buys into his gun safe at home.
In particular, he’s looking for low-caliber handguns because the ones in his current collection have too much firepower for him to use them to teach his teenage kids how to shoot pistols.
As for tonight: Antenori says he’s looking forward to seeing how the town hall goes, although he’s critical of Kozachik’s plans to have questions pre-screened by Fitzsimmons.
“Mr. Freedom-and-local-control is going to regulate his questions and he’s going to use the Arizona Daily Star as his question regulator,” Antenori says. “I find that the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Now he’s afraid he might be asked a difficult question and he’s having Fitzsimmons—by default, the Arizona Daily Star, the fifth column—regulate the questions.”
Antenori also took offense to a comment that Kozachik made to KGUN TV news reporter Marcelino Benito while dismissing people who upset over the gun buyback.
“I understand that a lot of people feel like they're not the pretty girl at the prom anymore and they're not getting all the attention they deserve, but this isn't the venue to get it," Kozachik told Benito last week. “We're talking about serious issues.”
Antenori says he has too much testosterone to identify with a girl at a prom.
“I do not want to be the prom queen,” Antenori says. “Maybe when I was in high school, I wanted to do the prom queen, but I sure as heck never wanted to be the prom queen. I think Steve K has problems. He’s got internal demons or something that are playing on him. If he wants to be the prom queen, he can knock his socks off. Of course, if he was the prom queen, I wouldn’t touch him with a frickin’ million-mile pole.”
Kozachik says he didn’t mention Antenori by name, so he finds it interesting that the outgoing state senator believes Kozachik was targeting him.
“I think Frank’s unbalanced,” Kozachik says.