$1,000 Fine Because Your Guns Were Stolen?

by
posted on March 22, 2024
Gun Safes2

A resolution by the Pima County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors to impose a $1,000 fine on any gun owner who doesn’t report the theft or loss of a firearm within two days is drawing pushback from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank located in Phoenix.

“It’s illegal—and they know it,” the organization stated in a news item. “So today, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to the board on behalf of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, demanding that the county immediately repeal the ordinance or face litigation.”

According to the Goldwater Institute, such an ordinance violates the state’s preemption law. And it’s not the first time that has happened at the city or county level.

“In 2013, the city of Tucson passed an ordinance with almost identical provisions, and the Arizona Attorney General declared it to be preempted and unlawful,” the organization stated. “Since then, Arizona courts have reiterated that firearms regulation is a matter of statewide concern and have limited the ability of cities and counties to add regulations beyond any enacted by the state legislature.”

At issue is the fact that lawful gun owners who have their firearms stolen would be forced to be victimized a second time by the county if they don’t report the loss quickly enough. That, in essence, punishes the victim for the theft instead of the criminal who stole the firearm.

In the letter, signed by Parker Jackson, staff attorney for the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, the organization pointed out that the ordinance violates more than one provision of Arizona state law.

“Specifically, the Ordinance directly conflicts with at least two provisions of state law,” wrote Jackson. “A.R.S. § 13-3108(A) preempts ‘any ordinance … relating to the transportation, possession, carrying, sale, transfer, purchase, acquisition, gift, devise, storage, licensing, registration, discharge or use of firearms … in this state.’ … Additionally, the Ordinance is preempted because it ‘has a penalty that is greater than any state law penalty.’ … Arizona has no law imposing penalties for the loss or theft of a firearm; therefore, the County’s penalty is plainly ‘greater than any state law penalty.’”

In the letter, the organization pointed out that the Arizona Attorney General’s office previously issued an opinion finding nearly identical provisions of a City of Tucson ordinance unlawful. Additionally, state Rep. Quang Nguyen, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has also written the board outlining the core legal reasons the ordinance is preempted by state law.

“The ordinance violates state law by imposing on lawful gun owners mandatory and stringent reporting requirements ... and significant consequences,” Rep. Nguyen wrote in the letter to the board.

In the end, the Goldwater Institute is insisting that the Pinal County Board of Supervisors repeal the ordinance, and has given the supervisors a short deadline to do so.

“Our clients will not allow their elected representatives to ignore well-established state law and place improper restrictions on their statutory and constitutional rights,” Jackson concluded in the letter. “Based on the foregoing, we demand that the Board immediately repeal Ordinance 2024-2, no later than at its April 2, 2024, meeting. If the ordinance is not repealed by that date, we will seek all legal remedies available to our clients.”

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