Lawmaker Targets Tucson Gun Laws

Article excerpt

PHOENIX -- State lawmakers are moving to make it easier for anyone to sue a city over its gun laws.

And the sponsor said he's specifically aiming it at Tucson.

Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, pointed out Arizona has had laws on the books for years preventing cities from enacting regulations that are stricter than state statutes. But he said that has not always been effective.

He cited one Tucson ordinance that allows police to request a breath sample from someone who has negligently discharged a firearm and appears intoxicated. And another requires people to report the loss or theft of a gun.

In a formal legal opinion last year, Attorney General Tom Horne said both measures are pre-empted by state law.

But Horne's opinion is just that, not law. And Smith noted the law currently allows only individuals who are charged with violating an ordinance to challenge it.

HB 2517, approved Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee, would change all that.

It says any individual or organization whose membership is "adversely affected" by a law they believe is illegal can sue. Challengers who win are entitled to legal fees and damages up to $100,000.

The legislation also says the court can assess a civil penalty of up to $500,000 against any elected or appointed government official if a judge determines the violation of state pre-emption laws was "knowing and willful."

And to make sure that resonates with city officials, HB 2517 forbids the city from reimbursing the council member or employee for that penalty. It even says the official has to bear his or her own legal fees. …