One week to the day after the Washington State Supreme Court okayed Seattle’s so-called “gun violence tax” despite the Evergreen State’s 34-year-old preemption law governing firearms regulation, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that “cities, towns and counties have no right to enact their own gun regulations,” the Arizona Daily Sun is reporting.
Thursday’s ruling dealt a death blow to the City of Tucson’s ordinance requiring the police department to destroy seized handguns. While the issue is not a tax, it amounted to a challenge to state preemption. In 2000, Arizona lawmakers passed House Bill 2095, which stated, “It is the intent of the legislature to clarify existing law relating to the state’s preemption of firearms regulation in this state. Firearms regulation is of statewide concern. Therefore, the legislature intends to limit the ability of any political subdivision of this state to regulate firearms and ammunition. This act applies to any ordinance enacted before or after the effective date of this act,” according to the high court ruling, which may be read here.
That same year, the legislature amended a state law to say this: “[A] political subdivision of this state shall not enact any ordinance, rule or tax relating to the transportation, possession, carrying, sale, transfer, purchase, acquisition, gift, devise, storage, licensing, registration, discharge or use of firearms or ammunition . . . in this state,” the court added.
Washington’s preemption law says this:
“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law…and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
The city police had been destroying handguns despite a 2013 law requiring that such seized firearms be sold to licensed firearms dealers. Destroying firearms has become something of a symbolic gesture in recent years. The operating theory is that a destroyed gun cannot be involved in any further crimes.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Councilman Steve Kozahcik, a proponent of gun destruction, was matter-of-fact about the ruling: “We got our asses kicked…It would be irresponsible to recommend anything other than the repeal of the city’s ordinance.”
Tucson would be risking state funding support if it continued to fight Arizona’s preemption law.