By Corinne Murdock |
The city of Phoenix plans to send hundreds of unclaimed guns to Ukraine, around 500 to 600 guns, over the next two years.
The Phoenix City Council approved the measure during last week’s formal meeting. The city will give the guns to a private company headquartered in Pennsylvania, D.T. Gruelle, who will then transport them to the National Police of Ukraine. The city will expend nothing for the transfer.
The approximately $200,000 in firearms given to Ukraine will only be 9mm, 45mm, 39mm, and 12 gauge. The firearms transfer agreement is binding for two years: June 28 of this year to June 28, 2025.
However, the gun donation may be unlawful.
Arizona House Judiciary Committee leaders immediately contacted Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego over the arrangement. In a letter, the committee members warned that the gun donation violates state law.
Reps. Quang Nguyen (R-LD01) and Selina Bliss (R-LD01), chair and vice-chair of the committee, urged Gallego to repeal the ordinance.
The lawmakers noted that state law prohibits political subdivisions from enacting any ordinance concerning the possession, sale, transfer, purchase, acquisition, or use of firearms.
The lawmakers also noted that state law doesn’t permit cities or other local governments from disposing of their firearms through donations. Rather, statute permits local governments to either trade the unclaimed firearms to a federal firearms licensed business in exchange for items like ammunition or weapons, or sell the unclaimed firearms to an authorized business who will then sell those firearms to the public.
The pair reminded Gallego of Brnovich v. City of Tucson, in which the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the city of Tucson’s ordinance ordering the destruction of unclaimed firearms conflicted with state law.
It appears that Phoenix’s donated guns may not only go to the National Police of Ukraine, but the citizens themselves.
The company contracted to take the unclaimed guns, D.T. Gruelle, has close ties to the Ukrainian government. Their managing director, Marco Gruelle, sits on the board of Ukrainian Arsenal of Liberty (UAL): a group created by Ukrainian Parliament members for the purpose of arming citizens. Parliament member Maryan Zablotskyy sits on UAL’s board.
Also on UAL’s board are Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of the city of Irpin, and Ivan Slobodyanyk, chair of the Union of Local Communities and Farmers Union of Ukraine as well as a fighter in the Territorial Defense Force.
According to UAL’s donation brief, they utilized donated and unused guns obtained by American states’ police forces. Unclaimed guns are held by the Phoenix Police Department; as the Arizona Daily Independent first reported, the donation plan didn’t mention tracking measures for the guns once donated.
The company first engaged in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict last February. D.T. Gruelle has provided “critical aid transport” to various conflict zones since 2019.
That same year that D.T. Gruelle began providing conflict zone assistance, it established its 501(c)(3) nonprofit, D.T. Care, which currently provides emergency relief to Ukraine. Marco Gruelle also serves as president of D.T. Care. In its last annual report, issued in 2021, D.T. Care distributed over $361,000 in relief to South Africa, Panama, Lebanon, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, respectively.
D.T. Gruelle was founded in 1982 by Durard Timothy Gruelle, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who continues to preside over the company today.