The Arizona state legislature flexed its muscles last Friday by approving a bill that allows lawsuits to be brought against city officials who knowingly and willfully pass gun-control ordinances that violate state statutes. The law allows judges to levy a $50,000 civil penalty and remove city officials from office.
The Arizona Senate approved Senate Bill 1266 on an 18-11 vote. The House passed the measure 31-23 and sent it to Gov. Doug Ducey for his expected signature.
According to the Yuma Sun, the measure is both designed to pre-empt future city ordinances as well as address those passed by Tucson city officials. Tucson approved two gun control measures in recent years that former Attorney General Tom Horne concluded are beyond the city’s authority. City officials have refused to repeal either measure.
One allows police to “request a breath sample from someone who has negligently discharged a firearm and appears intoxicated.” The other requires individuals to report the loss or theft of a firearm to the police or face a $100 civil penalty.
State lawmakers hold that both regulations fall under state jurisdiction. Horne concluded in 2013 that the “discharge and use of firearms” as well as the “possession or transfer of firearms” are not matters Arizona cities are not permitted to regulate. Thus far the city has ignored Horne’s formal legal opinion, but the passage of SB 1266 will allow the state to bring lawsuits and penalties if Tucson continues to ignore Horne’s findings.
According to the online newspaper AZCentral.com, SB 1266 is just one of many measures designed to clarify the boundaries between city and state authority. State officials have passed measures this year aimed at everything from dog breeders to taxes to plastic shopping bags.
The measures are meant to promote uniformity across the state so citizens and businesses don’t have to worry about contradictory laws among Arizona’s numerous cities and counties.
State officials have driven these measures, but some city councilmen are also behind the effort.
“We don’t have clearly defined lines of what is local and what is state-mandated,” Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio told AZCentral.com. “If you want to find ways to make things work … you’ve got to have uniform laws.”
According to DiCiccuio, overseeing law enforcement or city infrastructure should remain city issues, but things like the minimum wage, taxes, and (presumably) guns should not.
“The more you control a business, the more you control someone’s life, the less likely they are to be a productive entity,” he said. “The whole idea behind uniformity is to bring uniform laws across so you can conduct commerce, so you can live your life.”