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AG says Tucson gun destruction policy may violate state law

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Tucson’s policy of destroying guns the police seize could end up costing the city millions of dollars.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Monday issued an investigative report that found Tucson’s ordinance requiring police to destroy seized guns “may violate” a state law barring cities from destroying guns.

Cities can sell guns to third parties for destruction, but Tucson police have destroyed 4,820 since 2013, the year the law took effect.

Brnovich’s finding means he has to open a case with the Arizona Supreme Court, which in turn is required to make it top priority.

Brnovich conducted the investigation in response to a request by Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, under a law enacted in 2016 that requires the attorney general to investigate whenever a lawmaker alleges a city or state subdivision is violating a statute or the Constitution.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the 2016 law challenges the city’s sovereign status.

“The city’s position is that (the law) is unconstitutional,” Rothschild said.

The penalty for a city violating a state law or the Constitution is the withholding of state shared revenue, which for Tucson is $176 million in fiscal-year 2017. Just opening a case with the Supreme Court will mean Tucson will be required to post a bond in the amount of state-shared revenue it has received in the last six months.

Brnovich spokeswoman Mia Garcia, said the AG is waiting for Tucson to respond before determining what to do next.

Tucson’s city attorney, Mike Rankin, told the Associated Press the city is waiting to see if Brnovich takes it to court.

At issue is whether the Tucson ordinance mandating the destruction of the guns is a local or statewide matter.

A city ordinance that conflicts with state law will reign supreme if the ordinance relates to matters of purely local concern.

Tucson argues that its policy is a local issue involving municipal property.

Brnovich argues that regulating firearms is a matter of statewide interest for the purposes of preserving Second Amendment rights, preserving public safety, regulating police departments, and making sure cities don’t waste revenue-generating resources.

Finchem said he doesn’t think the city’s gun-destruction policy is a strictly local issue because the state “is being asked to kick in and pay the City of Tucson’s bills,” and Tucson is taking a political position and destroying valuable assets that could be sold.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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