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Air Force Vet, Local Nonprofit Sue Pima County, AZ, Over Illegal Firearms Mandate

May 1, 2024

Pima County, Ariz., wants to slap $1,000 fines on residents who fail to report a lost or stolen firearm to the government within two days.

But state law prohibits local governments from regulating firearms, and the county Board of Supervisors appeared to know that when they brazenly passed the ordinance. So now, on behalf of Air Force veteran Chris King and Pima County-based Arizona Citizens Defense League, the Goldwater Institute is suing the county to stop this unlawful mandate.

The new reporting ordinance isn’t just illegal—it takes aim at the wrong people. Rather than target criminals who steal firearms, the new requirement revictimizes law-abiding gun owners who experience the loss or theft of a firearm. Some may not even realize they are victims until much later.

“When my apartment was burglarized, both my wife and I were on active-duty out of state, and I didn’t even discover my firearm had been stolen until a week later,” says King, a county resident and NRA-certified firearms instructor. “We’re a nation of laws, and Arizona law clearly prohibits local governments from imposing regulations contradictory to the laws of this state. Why do Pima County officials think they’re above the law?”

Public records obtained by the Institute show that the Board of Supervisors, led by District 1 Supervisor Rex Scott and Board Chair Adelita Grijalva, has been gearing up for this fight for more than two years, coordinating with left-wing activist groups, attorneys, and other elected officials to undermine Arizona’s broad protections for the rights to keep and bear arms.

These are fundamental constitutional rights, and the state legislature has repeatedly reinforced and protected those rights from local interference through laws prohibiting local governments from implementing almost any form of firearm regulations.

But that hasn’t stopped certain cities and counties from searching for ways to get around those laws.

For example, in 2013, the city of Tucson passed a similar firearm reporting ordinance, which the Arizona Attorney General found illegal. Over the next several years, Tucson destroyed nearly 5,000 unclaimed or forfeited firearms under another preempted ordinance. (In 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court found those actions and ordinance unlawful.) And just last year, the city of Phoenix rammed through an ordinance that quickly disposed of nearly 600 unclaimed and seized firearms by sending them to the National Police of Ukraine. The Arizona Attorney General, belatedly, agreed that Phoenix’s ordinance violated state law.

Now, after years of trying to ban gun shows at the county fairgrounds, Pima County has ignored state law and gone after law-abiding gun owners who are victims of loss or theft.

But the ordinance itself specifically talks about the possession, sale, purchase, transfer, and acquisition of firearms—even though state law says local governments cannot regulate in any of those areas. And members of the board have made numerous statements acknowledging that the ordinance relates to those topics.

Now, they’ll have to defend their illegal ordinance in state court.

The Goldwater Institute will always defend constitutional rights and keep rogue government entities in check when they thumb their nose at the law.

You can read our complaint here, and find out more at our case page here

Click here to read more about Goldwater’s efforts to protect Second Amendment rights. You can learn more about Goldwater’s work defending gun rights organizations here. And our fight to protect the rights of firearm-related businesses is highlighted here and here.

Parker Jackson is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.

 

 

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