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Pima County wants people to report stolen guns quicker — or face a $1,000 fine

Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 - 12:00pm
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2024 - 12:20pm
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The Pima County Board of Supervisors just voted to require gun owners to report the theft or loss of a firearm within 48 hours. If they don’t, they could face a fine of up to $1,000.

The measure is meant to be a deterrent for so-called "straw buyers" who buy guns and then sell them to people who can’t pass a background check. But, the move is already expected to face a legal challenge.

Jim Nintzel has been covering the story for the Tucson Sentinel and talked more about the issue with The Show.

What is the ordinance designed to do? How could it combat straw buyers?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, it, it essentially says that a, as you pointed out, if you have a gun and it is lost or stolen, you have to report it within 48 hours to the local law enforcement or you'll face a fine of up to $1,000. And the idea is to help reduce the so-called straw purchases, where someone buys a gun for a prohibited possessor and then says, "Oh, the gun was lost or it was stolen." If, if that weapon is later used in a crime, or, you know, is discovered in the possession of a prohibited possessor which are, are folks who have been convicted of felonies or domestic violence or undocumented in the country.

And you know, it, it, the, the idea is just to prevent that kind of a legal twist how effective it will be is, is remains to be seen. The county attorney says they see cases like this frequently, where a gun is passed along and then the person who purchased it says it was lost or stolen. But you know, the extent to which we'll see that happen, even the, the supervisor who brought it up, Rex Scott, said this is a small step in, in, in the fight against gun violence.

So talk a little bit more about this fine. It's pretty hefty — up to $1000. That's a number also that went up in the discussion over this. Do you know why?

NINTZEL: Yeah, the county attorney, Laura Conover, suggested that they increase it from 300 to $1,000, or up to $1,000. The idea being not to punish people who are victimized by a gun theft, but to definitely put some kind of teeth into the prevention of folks, claiming that a gun was stolen and it was not actually stolen. You know, the, the, the county really can't do very much on this topic, because the state has preempted most gun laws. The, the county tried to repeal the state law that says that counties and cities and towns can't regulate guns beyond what the state does. But that legislation didn't go anywhere this year.

So tell us how the board of supervisors here thinks that this particular ordinance might get around those state laws.

NINTZEL: Well ... the state laws prohibit a number of things in terms of gun regulation and is saying ... while the state law prohibits how you can regulate possession once a gun is lost or soul and it's no longer in your possession. And that's the loophole that they're looking at. They do expect a legal challenge. Or they, they say it's not unlikely, through what's called the 1487 challenge. This is a law that was passed in 2016, and it says that any state lawmaker who looks at a law that a town or county has passed can ask the attorney general to decide if that falls within state law or is in violation of state law. And this has been used to do things like tell Bisbee, they can't regulate plastic bags, or Sedona can't regulate Airbnbs. And it's been used on the guns. Tucson actually passed a very similar ordinance, and it was knocked down by Tom Horne, who was then the attorney general. And obviously the county is hoping for a much different result now that the attorney general is Kris Mayes, and she's a Democrat, not a Republican.

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