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Brnovich pushes to stop Tucson gun law challenge

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Attorney General Mark Brnovich is trying to quash Tucson’s challenge to the law he is using to try to take away the city’s state aid.

Legal pleadings filed in Pima County Superior Court by Brnovich’s deputies do not contend that Tucson has no right to contest the legality of the statute approved earlier this year. That law allows Brnovich to order the treasurer to withhold state aid simply on his own finding that the city ordinance requiring that certain seized and found weapons be destroyed runs afoul of state statutes.

But Brnovich says he’s sure that attorneys for Tucson will make the same arguments in the lawsuit he already filed at the Supreme Court in his bid to deny state aid. So he is urging Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods to throw out the case the city filed against him.

If Woods is unwilling to do that, Brnovich at least wants her to delay the case in her court until the Supreme Court rules.

And Brnovich also has a separate motion to move the whole case out of her court and have it transferred to Maricopa County.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said his office anticipated that Brnovich would make such moves. He said the city is preparing a response.

The fight over who gets to hear the case could be significant.

If Woods were to void the law on which Brnovich is relying, that could undermine his whole effort at the Supreme Court to take away more than $150 million a year Tucson gets in state aid. If nothing else, it puts Brnovich in the position of having to defend the law rather than simply telling the justices that the law requires them to order the city to rescind its ordinance or lose the cash.

Brnovich contends the 2005 Tucson ordinance on gun destruction is illegal because a 2013 state law says that any operable weapons acquired by police cannot be destroyed but instead must be sold.

Tucson is not challenging that 2013 law. Instead it is focusing on a measure approved earlier this year that says if the attorney general concludes a city ordinance runs afoul of state law he can order the treasurer to halt state aid until the local law is repealed.

Brnovich in this case is taking a slightly different approach. While he concluded the Tucson ordinance is illegal, he is asking the Supreme Court to halt Tucson’s state aid versus doing it himself.

Whatever the method, attorneys for Tucson contend what Brnovich is doing is illegal.

They cite provisions in the Arizona Constitution that allow the state’s 18 charter cities to make their own laws on matters of local concern. And attorney Richard Rollman, who is representing Tucson in court, told Woods that how a city disposes of property fits that category.

Brnovich is arguing the contrary, saying the issue of guns is of statewide concern because the Legislature has an interest in preventing weapons from being destroyed. He said it keeps the prices of guns inexpensive and helps fight crime by allowing more people to be armed.

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