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In 2005, the Tucson City Council passed an ordinance requiring that unclaimed or forfeited firearms, that were not used by the Tucson Police Department, or transferred to other police agencies, be destroyed. Destruction of firearms is an act of political theater designed to delegitimize firearms, branding them contraband. This political propaganda strikes at the heart of the Second Amendment.

In 2013, the State of Arizona banned the practice of destroying valuable property, particularly firearms. The firearms were to be returned through ordinary channels of legal commerce. The proceeds from the sale benefits the political entity selling the firearms.

The Tucson City Council ignored the state statute and destroyed about 4,800 legal firearms between 2013 and October, 2016. Firearms sold at auction by police routinely bring between $100 and $200. The value of the firearms destroyed was likely between $500,000 and $1,000,000. The processing cost of destruction is approximately the same as the cost of legal sale.

The Arizona legislature was not pleased with the scofflaw actions of the Tucson City Council. In 2016, they passed amendments to put teeth into the 2013 statute. It provided a procedure to gain compliance. Penalties are available if a political subunit of the state continued to defy the legislature by destroying valuable property.

The Tucson City Council continued to defy the law. The new procedure to bring the city into compliance was initiated. The city of Tucson agreed to stop destroying firearms until their claims of being exempt from state law were settled by the state supreme court.

Last Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the city of Tucson violated state law regarding the disposal of firearms. The Supreme Court unanimously demolished the city’s claims.

The city had argued that there was no evidence that the destruction of firearms created a gun shortage in Tucson, illustrating that the destruction of firearms was purely for symbolic purposes, not as a way to reduce crime.


The primary issue we address here is whether the state may constitutionally prohibit a city’s practice, prescribed by local ordinance, of destroying firearms that the city obtains through forfeiture or as unclaimed property.

We conclude that a generally applicable state statute on this subject controls over a conflicting municipal ordinance, that the legislature may require the Attorney General to investigate and file a special action in this Court regarding alleged violations of the state law, and that this Court has mandatory jurisdiction to resolve whether the allegedly conflicting ordinance violates state law. Applying those principles here, we accept jurisdiction of the State’s special action and hold, in accordance with article 13, section 2 of the Arizona Constitution, that A.R.S. §§ 12-945(B) and 13-3108(F) supersede Tucson Code §2142

The Arizona State Supreme Court required the city to pay the reasonable legal fees of the state of Arizona in this case.

Several states have enacted similar statutes to prevent the wastage of valuable assets by political entities. Cities are allowed to hold or fund gun turn-in events if they wish; but the guns collected must be returned to legal channels of commerce for the benefit of the public.

When the Arizona statute was passed in 2013, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was committed to destroying nearly 2,000 firearms that had been turned in to police. The program had been deceptively labeled a “buy back.” Governments cannot “buy back” items that they never owned. Mayor Stanton committed 10 thousand dollars of police overtime money to ensure the firearms were destroyed.

It’s unclear how the destruction of guns turned in to police benefits anyone other than gun manufacturers. Except for sentimental value, historical and collectible appeal, the guns are easily replaced by newly manufactured guns. The demand for guns is not lowered by destroying turned in guns. They are merely replaced by newly made guns, with the profits benefiting gun manufacturers.

The Arizona supreme court decision was as expected. Cities may not set themselves up as independent city-states, ready, willing and able to defy state law.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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  1. There should be some serious consequences for elected officials that choose to ignore state law. I am disgusted with those self-righteous politicians. I sure hope those idiots don’t get re-elected.

    • All will be re-elected. It’s Democrat-run Tucson. I am one of the minority here in San Franci, I mean Aust, I mean Tucson: A Republican and a multiple-gun owner. After living here nearly 50 years I am moving up to Mesa…the most conservative city in Arizona…within the month.

  2. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if had the opportunity to buy these back and rummage through all those firearms. Also if I was somehow put to the task of destroying these you better believe I’d embezzle like a mofo! #hashtagbringbackmofoandalsojiveturkeywhynot

  3. I’d almost – notice I said almost – support moving New York City and Chicago to Arizona to see how the Arizona Courts would deal with those cities. It would be entertaining. However I have no desire to see the problems of New York and Chicago visited on the good people of Arizona.

    • New York City has something called “home rule.” It’s in the New York State constitution and provides that NYC is, in many ways, a legal City/State.

  4. “The Arizona State Supreme Court required the city to pay the reasonable legal fees of the state of Arizona in this case.”

    Close, but no cigar.

    The Mayor and whoever else (city council? chief of police? city attorney?) that directed those guns destroyed should be *personally* liable to pay those incurred legal fees.

    Time for the state legislature to step up and sharpen the teeth of that law…

    • And the city council should reimburse the city for the $1,000,000 they lost out on.

      I look forward to seeing them each facing 4,800 charges for misappropriation, conspiracy, this destroying of the guns being a state crime, and all.

  5. This is purely entertaining, to say he least, that these individual city governments think that their laws are able to circumvent state laws regarding their actions.

    This reminds me of the assault weapons ban and the high capacity magazines flaw. Glock made the guns and mags and bought them back from these local governments while providing them with what they saw as a benefit of new and improved weapons. Glock resold the high cap mags during the ban since they were manufactured prior to enactment and made a ton of money, putting the mags back into circulation, circumventing the law. Glock knew what they were doing. These local governments don’t.

  6. Only being required to pay the legal fees is not enough of a penalty. Those that conspire to violate state law such as but not limited to the mayor should be required to pay out of their own funds for fines amounting to as little as $100 per firearm with no maximum. Being forced to pay over $4000 for one Colt Single Action army could make it expensive to destroy hundreds of highly collectible guns

  7. I like this particular result, as do I suspect you do if you’re reading this comment.

    However, something to keep in mind is that the shoe can on occasion be on the other foot. We want cities to obey state law when we prefer the state law. If, let’s say, that Arizona had a law banning open carry, but Phoenix had decided to allow open carry anyway, or at the very least not prosecute those who broke it, who would we be cheering for?

    Just a perhaps cynical thought at the end of a long day.

    • I’m with James Ivey above… you’re a jive POULTRY REFERENCE DELETED!

      I’m kidding, I’m kidding! I just wanted to call someone a jive POULTRY REFERENCE DELETED to see if it got moderated as a flame.

  8. The Washington Supreme Court should have found the state laws pre-emtped the Seattle gun and ammo tax as well. Unfortunately we have leftist activist judges elected by the Seattle liberals that found otherwise.

  9. Dont know why this is a surprise to anyone. Democrats, specifically large city/state government democrats, do not follow the laws they find inconvenient and have no intention of starting any time soon.

  10. Sanctuary cities hopefully will go the same way.

    States vs. federal interests on immigration law was brought up under Obama – states could not trump federal interests – so to speak.

    But now certain cities can. They are special.

  11. Here in Florida if that were to happen the city officials would be held personally responsible for the crime of violating the State laws. No city laws can supersede the States, The State has some teeth here in Florida.

  12. I’d like to see a federal Second Amendment Protection Act passed, in which mandatory minimum prison sentences of 3-5 years is administered for those found guilty of even attempting to subvert the 2A, which would include the writing and/or proposal of any “gun control” legislation. The constant infringement on what is arguably the most important right enumerated in the Bill Of Rights, would end virtually overnight.

  13. Arizona has a “malfeasance in office” law. This law allows the impeachment of elected officials found guilty of “malfeasance in office”.
    Why doesn’t the Arizona Attorney General prosecute these Tucson council members for malfeasance? Could it be the Attorney General doesn’t want to set a precedent for prosecuting elected officials for openly flouting (i.e., ignoring) the law?

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