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GOP Lawmaker Tells Pima County Its Firearms Ordinance Is Illegal

March 18, 2024

By Corinne Murdock |

State Rep. Quang Nguyen (R-LD01) advised Pima County that its latest firearms ordinance violates state law. 

In a Tuesday letter to the county’s board of supervisors, Nguyen said the ordinance, which imposes reporting requirements and fines on gun owners related to loss or theft of a firearm, was “extremely troubling” since it amounted to regulatory authority only available to the state legislature per state law, supported by a 2017 Arizona Supreme Court ruling. Nguyen pointed out that a similar ordinance by the city of Tucson was determined unlawful by then-Attorney General Tom Horne in 2013.

“Another attempt to regulate firearms via an illegal ordinance by Pima County,” said Nguyen. 

Nguyen also pointed out that the city of Phoenix’s ordinance regulating unclaimed firearms violated multiple state laws, per Attorney General Kris Mayes last September. Mayes affirmed the Arizona Supreme Court’s determination that firearms regulation remains a statewide concern. 

Under Pima County’s new ordinance passed last week, gun owners face up to $1,000 in fines every time they fail to report lost or stolen firearms to police within two days. The board of supervisors passed the ordinance 4-1; only Supervisor Steve Christy voted against it. 

In the ordinance, the board of supervisors justified its regulation by relaying that those prohibited from owning firearms have committed a significant number of the county’s firearm-related crimes with the help of straw purchasers. The board reasoned that the ordinance’s reporting requirements would help find and prosecute those straw purchasers.

“Reporting requirements assist with the apprehension and prosecution of straw purchasers, preventing or deterring them from claiming that a firearm they bought and transferred to a prohibited possessor was lost or taken in an unreported theft as well as preventing or deterring prohibited possessors from falsely claiming that their firearms were lost or stolen when law enforcement moves to remove them,” read the ordinance. 

The ordinance originally proposed a $300 fine for each failure to report a lost or stolen firearm.

It was Pima County Attorney Laura Conover who suggested an increase in the fine amount to $1,000, in her letter of support to the board. Conover said that her office had handled over 100 cases involving firearms used by prohibited possessors last year, six of which were murder charges. Conover’s letter made no mention of the potential conflict between the ordinance and state law. 

“Do we want law enforcement in Pima County to track down the origins of a firearm only after a crime has been committed, only to be told that the firearm was lost or stolen?” said Conover. “Or do we want to provide law enforcement with an opportunity to track down lost or stolen firearms before they land into the hands of prohibited possessors or, worse, the hands of young people or people with mental disabilities?”

The county further justified its ordinance by citing a 1998 Arizona Court of Appeals ruling in City of Tucson v. Rineer and a federal district court ruling on a California law in National Association for Gun Rights v. City of San Jose. Nguyen criticized the county’s justifications as irrelevant to their ordinance.

Rineer analyzed the validity of a Tucson City Code provision that prohibited using or possessing firearms within Tucson city parks. Rineer also predates the Arizona Supreme Court’s 2017 opinion in City of Tucson,” said Nguyen. “It should go without saying that Arizonans expect county officials to enact laws that comply with Arizona laws, not California laws. Moreover, the ordinance that the federal court considered in the San Jose case did not impose any mandatory reporting requirements, fines, or penalties and bears no resemblance to the Ordinance here.”

Nguyen warned the county that “knowing and willful” violations of state firearm law incur a $50,000 penalty. 

Pima County’s firearms ordinance takes effect in April.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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