Pima County Board of Supervisors to consider requirement to report lost or stolen guns

At next week’s meeting, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will
consider whether to require gun owners to report the theft or loss of a
firearm or face a fine of up to $300.

District 1 Supervisor Rex Scott has asked his colleagues to discuss the proposal on Tuesday, March 5.

Scott said that he hoped the ordinance would prove to be a deterrent against so-called “straw buyers,” who purchase firearms and then flip them to prohibited possessors who can’t pass a background check.

Prohibited possessors include those convicted of a felony or domestic violence offense, people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment and undocumented migrants.

“Prohibited possessors commit a significant number of firearm-related crimes and often obtain their firearms through straw purchases,” Scott said. “This is especially important because straw purchasers will be prevented or deterred from claiming that a firearm if they bought and gave to a prohibited possessor was lost or stolen in an unreported theft. And on the prohibited possessor side, this will prevent or deter them from falsely falsely claiming that their firearms were lost or stolen when law enforcement attempts to take them.”

Scott’s proposed ordinance would require anyone who knew or reasonably should have known that a gun had been stolen or lost to report it to the local authorities within 48 hours of discovering the weapon is missing. Failure to do so would result in a fine of up to $300 for each violation.

Scott said he would like to pass stricter ordinances to prevent gun violence but state law now prohibits counties, cities and towns from enacting ordinances related to firearms that go beyond what is now regulated in state law.

The county’s proposed ordinance notes that while state law prohibits local regulations “related to the transportation, possession, carrying, sale, transfer, purchase, acquisition, gift, devise, storage, licensing, registration, discharge or use of firearms, a reporting requirement for the loss or theft of a firearm relates to none of those issues.”

The ordinance notes that the Arizona Court of Appeals found in a case regarding the city of Tucson that state law only prohibits local firearms regulations with respect to those issues specifically identified in state statute.

State lawmakers can file a so-called 1487 complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to determine whether an ordinance is in line with state law. Pima County Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Sam Brown, who worked on drafted the proposed ordinance, noted that former Attorney General Tom Horne determined in a 2013 complaint that a Tucson ordinance requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms violated state statute.

“It’s an open question,” Brown said. “We don’t agree with that particular AG opinion.”

While “possession” is among the regulations that are prohibited in statute, “a lost or stolen ordinance isn’t really about possession because you no longer have possession,” Brown said.

Brown predicted if the Board of Supervisors passes the ordinance on Tuesday, a state lawmaker “probably will” file a 1687 complaint but the interpretation of the law could be different under Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat who was elected in 2022.

While county attorneys didn’t draft the ordinance in partnership with the AG’s office, Brown said they had conversations with state attorneys as they prepared the language.

At the behest of Pima County, state Rep. Nancy Gutierrez sponsored legislation this year that would have repealed the state’s preemption statute, but it didn’t get a hearing. Gutierrez said the Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature have instead passed bills to allow firearms training at public schools and to remove restrictions prohibiting guns on college campuses and in the parking lots of public schools, only to see them vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat.

Gutierrez said she would continue to sponsor legislation designed to reduce gun violence because “this is what my constituents wanted me to do.”

“I stand here today, vowing to you that we will not stop until we get these passed because I will not go back and tell my students that I did nothing,” the Tucson High teacher said.

But, she added, “gun sense” bills won’t get hearings unless Democrats are successful in flipping the Arizona House of Representatives—which is now split 31-29 in the GOP’s favor—and the Arizona Senate, which is now split 16-14 in the GOP’s favor.

“In order for us to move these bills, you have to have Democrats leading the charge and we have to flip our legislature in order to do that,” Gutierrez said.