The NRA Institute for Legislative Action picked up a potentially important court ruling coming out of Arizona this week which has mostly flown under the media radar. Under debate is a policy in Tuscon (along with other cities and counties) which mandates the routine destruction of guns which are confiscated from criminals or surrendered during “no questions asked” gun turn-in events. Since guns are items of value, the question is raised as to whether or not they can simply destroy and dispose of them rather than offering them for legal sale to subsidize taxpayer contributions to the city’s coffers. The political appeal of destroying guns for the left is obvious, but the courts have put the breaks on the practice.
On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the state was within its authority to prohibit cities and counties from routinely destroying firearms obtained through forfeiture or as unclaimed property. State law holds that political subdivisions must instead (subject to certain exceptions) recirculate the firearms through legitimate channels of commerce, just as they do with other types of valuable property. The case represents the latest battle in an effort dating back nearly two decades to prevent anti-gun localities from undermining the pro-gun policies of the state legislature.
While the case – State v. City of Tucson – rests on complicated issues of Arizona constitutional, statutory, and common law, it illustrates challenges facing gun owners nationwide and the importance of sustained advocacy in ensuring Second Amendment rights.
As I already mentioned, any opportunity to very publicly destroy guns is considered a PR victory for Democrats. Never mind the often documented fact that these gun “turn in” opportunities rarely turn up anything other than broken junk for the most part. You can also ignore for the moment the reality that most criminals wouldn’t be caught dead showing up someplace that’s crawling with cops and surrendering a weapon they actually used in the commission of crimes.
But if there are some usable guns somehow turned it, what is the proper method for their legal processing? That was the issue here more than any Second Amendment question. Confiscated materials generally go in one of two directions. If they include dangerous substances such as illegal drugs, you clearly don’t want them back out on the street, so they are destroyed. If, however, the police wind up confiscating items of value which are not to be returned (e.g. cars from drug dealers) they tend to be sold in order to provide additional revenue, frequently going to law enforcement needs.
So how did guns wind up in the former category rather than the latter? At a state level Arizona is fairly solidly pro-Second Amendment, but they have their own cities and towns with majority liberal support like most places. That seems to be the case here, but the state supreme court has now brought them back inline. Well done.